Five Michigan men and a man from Delaware have been arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) from her vacation home, authorities said Thursday afternoon.
According to the criminal complaint, Adam Fox of Michigan, and Barry Croft of Delaware, were among a group of individuals who the FBI identified in early 2020 as wanting to take violent action against state governments in the name of the U.S. Constitution. The two were later joined by Ty Garbin, a leader of a Michigan-based militia group, which allegedly was already on the radar of law enforcement after a concerned member reported to police that he believed members were intent on killing officers.
Throughout the summer, some of the men started training and discussing methods of attacking the government, including attacking a Michigan State police facility. Fox, Croft, and Garbin were later joined in their efforts by a few others before settling on a kidnapping attempt on the governor.
According to the Department of Justice, “[o]n two occasions, members of the alleged conspiracy conducted coordinated surveillance on the Governor’s vacation home. Fox and Croft discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the vacation home and Fox even inspected the underside of an M-31 highway bridge for places to seat an explosive, according to the complaint. Among other activities, the complaint alleges Fox purchased a taser for use in the kidnapping and that the group successfully detonated an improvised explosive device wrapped with shrapnel to test its anti-personnel capabilities. The FBI and Michigan State Police executed arrests as multiple conspirators met to pool funds for explosives and exchange tactical gear.”
“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, of the Eastern District of Michigan, in a statement Thursday. “The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing. We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Governor Whitmer.”
According to the criminal complaint, some of the alleged conspirators also talked about options for stifling a law enforcement response to the plan once it was put into action, including using molotov cocktails against police cars and exploding a bridge. They also allegedly discussed plans through encrypted apps and appeared to use code to reference explosives.
The complaint reads (Strong Language Warning):
The conspirators often communicate via encrypted online platforms and use “code words” or phrases to describe their plans in a self-proclaimed effort to avoid law-enforcement detection. For example, on July 24, 2020, [Confidential Human Source 2] and GARBIN contacted FOX by telephone. The call was recorded by CHS-2. FOX said he had researched the Governor’s office online, and he believed that the Governor kept only a ceremonial office in Lansing. FOX wondered aloud whether the group just needed to “party it out, make a cake and send it,” in what CHS-2 believed was a coded reference to sending a bomb to the Governor. FOX discussed the need to train for the next three months to be ready to engage. FOX stated, “In all honesty right now . . . I just wanna make the world glow, dude. I’m not even fuckin’ kidding. I just wanna make it all glow dude. I don’t fuckin’ care anymore, I’m just so sick of it. That’s what it’s gonna take for us to take it back, we’re just gonna have to everything’s gonna have to be annihilated man. We’re gonna topple it all, dude. It’s what great frickin’ conquerors, man, we’re just gonna conquer every fuckin’ thing man.” FOX and GARBIN further discussed the need for the government to collapse because it has become so tyrannical.
According to the criminal complaint, Fox conducted surveillance on Whitmer’s vacation home in late August, sharing photos with other alleged conspirators, and conducted another surveillance trip with over a half-dozen other men in mid-September. One of the men was a human source who provided audio recordings to law enforcement officials from as early as mid-June. Another man on the trip was an undercover agent.
After another surveillance mission in September, one of the human sources allegedly provided audio that outlined conversations between several men including Kaleb Franks, another man who was arrested for the alleged plot.
The complaint reads:
After arriving back at GARBIN’s property, [Confidential Human Source 2] asked, “Everybody down with what’s going on?” and someone stated, “If you’re not down with the thought of kidnapping, don’t sit here.” GARBIN replied, “Oh no, we’re not kidnapping, that’s not what we’re doing,” which sparked general laughter. Amidst the laughter, another voice said, “No children!” and a voice added, “We’re adult napping.” FRANKS stated, “Kidnapping, arson, death. I don’t care.” The group then started discussing destroying the vacation home.
The other two alleged conspirators are Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. Each of the six men faces up to life in prison if found guilty.
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Whitmer said she “never could have imagined anything like this” when she took the oath of office back in 2018. “My husband and I are eternally grateful to everyone who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our family safe,” she said.
Whitmer also said President Donald Trump was “stoking distrust” and “fomenting anger” in America. She referenced comments Trump made during the debate last week, saying that the remarks were heard by unspecified hate groups and militias as a “rallying cry.” (After Fox News debate moderator Chris Wallace asked whether Trump would condemn white supremacist and militia groups, Trump said that he would, but the subsequent exchange derailed and didn’t yield the answer Wallace seemed to be looking for. Trump has since condemned white supremacist groups.)
According to The New York Times, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) also tied the plot to rhetoric from the president, but the Times notes that the court documents released thus far do not provide evidence to support such a claim.