Three Kansas men with ties to an extremist, hard-right militia movement were formally charged Monday for domestic terrorism connected to their alleged plans to bomb the day after Election Day a Garden City housing complex that was home to much of the town’s Somali Muslim population, as well as a mosque.
Law enforcement officials involved in the investigation said it uncovered a “hidden culture of hatred and violence,” while Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) warned that, if perpetrated, the men’s alleged plan would have caused “a horrific event.”
Their plot would bring about a “bloodbath,” in their words, that was the “only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around,” according to the FBI affidavit released with their arrest Friday. At least one of the men appears to have been a Donald Trump supporter, according to screenshots of the men’s social media postings, and the others, it seems, had a penchant for sharing anti-Muslim hate memes and right-wing conspiracy theories.
The case has heightened fears of violence tied to November’s election after what has been one of the most vitriolic campaigns in U.S. history, with a particular concern for the groups that have been the target of smears by the GOP nominee, who has called for a ban on Muslim immigration, and has spread falsities about refugees.
“The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim,” one of the Kansas men said in a recorded conversation, according to the affidavit. He later added: “If you’re a Muslim I’m going to enjoy shooting you in the head.”
The men — Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Eugene Stein — operated in a group that called itself the “Crusaders,” according to officials. It appears to have been a spin-off from another militia group, the Kansas Security Force, and the members were described as “support[ing] and espous[ing] sovereign citizen, anti-government, anti- Muslim, and anti-immigrant extremist beliefs,” according to the affidavit.
While they harbored many of the angry sentiments running through other anti-government organizations, the court documents reveal a specific obsession with targeting the region’s Somali Muslim population, many of whom work for a local Tyson’s meat-packing plan. The three men labeled Muslims as “cockroaches” and “raghead bitches,” according to transcripts of their conversations in court docs, and the group contemplated targeting churches and businesses that supported refugees.
Law enforcement’s investigation into the Crusaders began in February, according to officials, and was reliant on an unnamed human source who has able to embed with the group and tape a number of audio recordings detailing their plans to attack the housing complex, Garden City’s Garden Spot.
The militia men often communicated by WhatsUp, an encrypted texting service, and hosted conferences over Zello, a walkie-talkie-like phone conference app, in addition to their frequent in-person meetings, the affidavit said. They proposed engaging in surveillance of the region’s Muslim community, and at one point Wright used Google Maps on his work computer to label business and groups with Muslim-ties with pins that said “cockroaches.”
The men also appeared inspired by the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and allegedly planned their attack as a response to this summer’s Orlando massacre as well as the shooting of Oregon refuge occupier Lavoy Finicum by law enforcement last January, the court docs said.
The militia men at one point discussed shooting Muslim Somalis, one by one, kicking down the doors of each of their apartments: “[I]f you start using your bow on them cockroaches, make sure you dip them in pig’s blood before you shoot them,” Stein said in one of the recordings cited by the affidavit. They also proposed an Orlando-style shootout at the local Muslim refugee center, according to the affidavit, before settling on a plot to place four vehicles packed with explosives at each corner of the housing complex’s parking lot, in order “to create a big explosion,” the affidavit said.
The source, at one point, suggested targeting mosques, Wright agreed: “Yeah, during prayer time.”
They were mobilizing around collecting explosive materials, such as aluminum powder and ammonium nitrate, according to court documents, in addition to the firearms they had amassed. Last Wednesday, Stein brought the FBI source to the apartment complex after the source showed him a cache of assault weapons, officials said at a press conference announcing the charges Friday. At the meeting with the source, Stein also expressed concerns that Allen’s girlfriend would inform the local police about their plan, after the police had arrested Allen in a domestic violence case the day before, officials said.
“These individuals posed a significant threat and credible threat to our community and were planning to take imminent action,” Eric Jackson, an FBI special agent involved in the investigation, said at the press conference. “These individuals had desire, the means and the capability and were committed to carrying out this act of domestic terrorism”
The men also planned to release a manifesto, officials said, and saw the bombing as a way to “wake” people up. They had chosen the day after the election as to not influence its results, the officials said, but nonetheless sought a “bloodbath” to “turn” the country “around.”
“The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker,” Stein said on a Zello call, according to the affidavit. “Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”
According to Southern Policy Law Center, the men in “The Crusaders,” appeared to have Facebook ties with the “III% Security Force of Kansas” and other anti-government groups. (III% groups are found across the country and oppose any government act they see as in conflict with the Constitution.) The SPLC report also highlighted an anti-Hillary Clinton rant posted by Stein to social media in July that called her “one of the most corrupt, deceitful, lying, caniving, treasonist, POS,” while complaining that the “elections are rigged by the elitist (FYI: YOUR VOTE DOESN’T MATTER ANYMORE).” Stein also appeared to circulate on social media a conspiracy theory made popular by Frank Gaffney — who runs an anti-Muslim think tank Trump has also cited — that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the U.S. government.
Journalists have also surfaced screenshots from the men’s Facebook accounts that showed one of them, Stein, posting pro-Trump memes, while the others trafficked in anti-Muslim materials and fake news stories..
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) October 14, 2016
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) October 14, 2016
Allen’s twin brother has stepped forward to express his shock over the alleged plans involving his brother, who he described as somewhat of a “loner” with strong political opinions.
“It’s really unbelievable that you know someone that could be accused of being involved in something like this,” Kevin Allen told KWCH over the weekend. “I think our upbringing was fairly normal for this part of the county, ya know.”
They had moved to southwest Kansas from Oklahoma when they were 12, Allen said, and their upbringing included occasional church attendance.
The brothers entered the military after high school, andCurtis continued with the National Guard — including a stint in Iraq — after Kevin had finished his term of service. Kevin said Curtis endured head injuries before and during his service, and suffered from PSTD while receiving disability benefits from the military.
“He went over and served in Iraq, and then when he came back, it was a little different,” Kevin said. “I’m not saying that any of this justifies what they’re accused of doing, but, I mean, you know, I have some friends in the military that suffer from PTSD. And it seems like sometimes they have anger issues and they have trouble processing their thoughts.”
Stein’s family has also expressed devastation over what he had been accused of in a statement through a lawyer that said they do “not support discrimination of any sort and have never advocated or condoned violence as a solution to differences.”
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) praised law enforcement for their investigation, and told Kansas reporters on Monday that “this sort of hate and violence doesn’t have any place in this country, let alone our state.”
But he waffled on questions about whether the alleged plotting was in part motivated by the tenor of the presidential campaign, while defending his own actions to block refugees coming into the state.
“I think the overall discussion in the world has been difficult. There has been lots of problems and lots of sharp words,” Brownback, a Trump supporter, said. He stopped short of blaming any specific American politicians for fanning anti-Muslim sentiment.
“There’s plenty of people that have contributed,” Brownback said.