An Oklahoma man who the FBI claimed espoused violent, anti-government views was arrested over the weekend in an alleged plot to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb outside an Oklahoma City bank.
Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, was arrested Friday shortly after he allegedly attempted to activate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van just outside of the BancFirst building. The scheme echoed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing attack that killed dozens.
Varnell was charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce, according to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department. Mark Yancey, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, announced in a brief Monday press conference that Varnell could face 5-20 years in prison if convicted.
News reports and a criminal complaint paint a picture of a disturbed young man sympathetic to the views of the anti-government “Three Percenter” movement and keen to seek retaliation against what he viewed as an overly intrusive federal bureaucracy. His cues and references were ripped from news headlines and pop culture.
“That’s the kind of shit I want to fucking do, it’s time to do that kind of fucking shit,” Varnell said in a conversation with an FBI source and an undercover FBI agent, as quoted in the complaint. He was referring to the action that Tyler Durden, the nihilist “Fight Club” protagonist, expressed wanting to take against the federal government by destroying its facilities.
Varnell allegedly told both individuals during that same conversation at an Elk City, Oklahoma restaurant that he adhered to the “III% ideology” and wanted to start the next revolution.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, the Three Percenter movement adheres to the mistaken belief that only three percent of American colonists fought the British during the American Revolution.
Varnell’s alleged months-long efforts to obtain explosive devices, pick and case his target, and find anti-government allies willing to support his crusade are detailed at length in the complaint. According to the complaint, he maintained an electrically-powered storage container in the backyard of the home he shared with his parents that was stocked with food, supplies and a hidden room where he planned to grow marijuana.
He allegedly told the FBI source that he had built the bunker for use “when the world (or United States) collapsed” and that he was attempting to build a “team” of like-minded associates.
“I’m out for blood,” Varnell told the individual, as quoted in the complaint. “When militias start getting formed im going after government officials when I have a team.”
The complaint states those messages were captured in audio recordings, Facebook messages and encrypted text messages.
Varnell described his plans for the bomb and how it would work, telling the source he wanted to “go with what the OKC bomber used” but that he planned to set it off at night to avoid mass casualties, according to the complaint. He acknowledged some deaths may be unavoidable, allegedly telling the undercover FBI agent “you got to break a couple of eggs to make an omelet.”
The complaint also charges Varnell prepared a Facebook message that he wanted put out after the attack was completed, so that no other group could take credit for it.
That message, as quoted in the complaint, called the bombing “an act done to show the government what the people thinks of its actions. It is also a call to arms, to show people that there are still fighters among the American people. The time for revolution is now.”
The Oklahoman newspaper reported that Varnell had a history of mental health issues, including a domestic assault and battery charge for an alleged attempt to choke his now ex-wife. In plea paperwork, Varnell said he first received treatment for schizoaffective disorder in Feb. 2013, according to the report.
Varnell was arrested at around 1 a.m. local time Saturday morning, after constructing what he believed to be a bomb with the undercover FBI agent, driving to the BancFirst building in a van he believed stolen, and making repeated attempts to detonate it, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Asked if Varnell has retained an attorney or received court-appointed representation, Yancey’s office told TPM that his legal representation would be discussed when he makes his initial appearance in court at 3 p.m. local time.
Read the complaint below: