An FBI investigation led to the thwarting of an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before the November 3 election – a plan that stemmed in part from meetings in Dublin, just north of Columbus.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday that six men were arrested: Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Ty Garbin, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris. All six are Michigan residents except for Croft, who is from the state of Delaware.
The men were federally charged with "conspiracy to commit kidnapping," and if found guilty could face up to life in prison.
"On June 6, 2020, Croft, Fox and approximately 13 other people from several states gathered in Dublin, Ohio," the sworn affidavit reads. "The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient."
At that Dublin meeting, members discussed "murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," and encouraged each other to spread their message to neighbors. According to the affidavit, that involved reaching out to a Michigan militia group called Wolverine Watchmen.
On July 18, several of the men met again in Ohio and discussed attacking a Michigan State Police facility, or possibly shooting up the Whitmer's vacation home in Michigan – rather than attacking the state capitol. The group then landed on a plan to abduct Whitmer when she was arriving at or leaving her personal vacation home or the governor's summer residence.
"Snatch and grab, man," Fox was recorded as saying. "Grab the fuckin' Governor. Just grab the b----. Because at that point, we do that, dude – it's over."
In addition to the six arrests above, seven Wolverine Watchmen members have also been charged and arrested under Michigan's anti-terrorism act. According to Nessel, the group aimed to "instigate a civil war."
Speaking at his coronavirus press conference Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called the plot a "despicable act" and said he was thankful it was stopped. When asked if he was ever in danger, DeWine said he does not talk about security, but had no knowledge about the incident until reading about it today.
Authorities say their investigation started earlier this year, when the FBI learned that people were discussing the violent overthrow of state governments and law enforcement over social media.
“Through confidential sources, undercover agents and clandestine recordings, law enforcement learned particular individuals were planning to kidnap the governor and acting in furtherance of that plan,” said Andrew Birge, U.S. Attorney General for the Western District of Michigan, at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Birge, who called the men "violent extremists," said they used operational security measures to evade detection by law enforcement, “including communicating by encrypted messaging platforms, and used code words and phrases.” The men also conducted planned surveillance on the governor’s vacation home twice.
“In particular, according to the complaint, they discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the home,” Birge said. “And Fox even inspected the underside of a Michigan highway bridge for places to seat an explosive.”
Birge also says Fox purchased a taser to use in the kidnapping, and that the groups successfully detonated an improved explosive device wrapped with shrapnel “to test its anti-personnel capabilities.”
The investigation is ongoing.