FBI breaks up militia plot to kidnap governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer

Officials say group planned on murdering ‘tyrants’ before election day

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 09 October 2020 00:01 BST
Gretchen Whitmer hits out at Donald Trump as she denounces kidnap plot
Gretchen Whitmer hits out at Donald Trump as she denounces kidnap plot (AP)

The FBI says is has broken up a militia plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.

Authorities say members of the Wolverine Watchmen group talked about murdering “tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor before FBI agents raided a home in Michigan on Wednesday.

Ms Whitmer imposed some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in her state and has been a fierce critic of Donald Trump’s pandemic response, as well as a target of insults from the president.

She said in May that there had been an “explosion” in threats against her and that the governor’s residence underwent a $1.1m (£850,000) security upgrade last month.

“Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in a federal affidavit, obtained by the Detroit News.

“The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbours and spread their message.”

Six men - Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta - have been charged in connection with the alleged plot.

All six  have been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and face life sentences. Five are from Michigan and one from Delaware.

Seven other defendants also face state terrorism charges amid accusations they targeted law enforcement officers, the AP reports.

Video footage has now emerged of the basement of a vacuum shop where Mr Fox was living while allegedly plotting with his co-defendants.

The shop’s owner said that Mr Fox was a member of a militia, but that he did not know how extreme it was.

Brian Titus told WOODTV that Mr Fox had become militant against wearing a mask as he believed it violated his civil rights.

"He was anti-police, anti-government. He was afraid if he didn’t stand up for the Second Amendment and his rights that the country is going to go communism and socialism,” said Mr Titus.

In Facebook pictures Mr Fox can be seen dressed in camouflage and carrying an assault rifle.

The FBI affidavit states that Mr Fox on numerous occasions said he wanted to kidnap Ms Whitmer before the 3 November national election.

He was recorded on a June phone call saying he would try the politician for “treason” after taking her hostage.

During a June livestream to a private Facebook group, Mr Fox called Ms Whitmer a “tyrant bitch” for limiting gym access during the coronavirus pandemic, the affidavit states.

"I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do," Mr Fox said on the video, according to the affidavit.

"Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f****n’ governor," Mr Fox said, according to another secret recording. 

"Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it's over.”

The FBI and Michigan State Police spent hours raiding a home in Hartland, Michigan, on Wednesday night.

According to court documents the FBI became aware of the plot earlier this year through social media and monitored the group’s meetings.

At one meeting the group reportedly discussed using 200 men to “storm” the state’s Capitol Building in Lansing, take hostages, kidnap the governor and try her for “treason”.

The unsealed documents state that on two occasions this year the group ran surveillance on Ms Whitmer’s holiday home.

The FBI also says they bought an 800,000-volt Taser and night vision goggles to use in the scheme, which they wanted to carry out before election day.

“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence," said US attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan.

“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.”

Opposition to Ms Whitmer’s coronavirus stay-at-home orders saw hundreds of angry protesters - many armed with rifles - gather at Michigan’s Capitol Building in May.

Protesters defied social distancing guidelines to rally against emergency declarations that shut nonessential businesses and forced people in the state to stay at home.

Ms Whitmer has been a target of heavy criticism from Mr Trump. In April the president blasted the state’s lockdown and tweeted: “Liberate Michigan.”

Later he sided with the protesters and took aim at Ms Whitmer. “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire," tweeted Mr Trump.

“These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

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