The FBI intervened in an alleged militia plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), according to court records and remarks by federal and state officials Thursday. Six men face federal charges and seven others face state charges in connection with the plot, authorities said Thursday. All of them are in custody.
The plot allegedly included surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home and construction of an improvised explosive device using a firework.
In July, one of the alleged kidnapping plotters, Adam Fox, described the plan as a “snatch and grab” to an FBI informant, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
“Grab the fuckin’ governor,” he allegedly said. “Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.”
A militia group referenced in the federal charges is the “Wolverine Watchmen,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference Thursday.
Nessel announced a slew of separate state charges against seven defendants not named in the federal case who appear to be connected to Wolverine Watchmen.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” one FBI agent alleged in the affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
The Detroit News first reported on the FBI bust. The News and WXYZ, in another report, tied the alleged plot to a raid carried out by the FBI and Michigan State Police on a home in Hartland overnight.
“All of us standing here today want the public to know that federal and state law enforcement are committed to working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans, particularly when they target our duly elected leaders,” Andrew Birge, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said at a press conference Thursday.
Six men were accused by federal law enforcement of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer: Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. All except Croft are from Michigan, according to the affidavit. Croft is from Delaware.
Whitmer, who said in televised remarks Thursday that she considered President Donald Trump “complicit,” separately told the Detroit Free Press that she’d known about the alleged plot for several weeks.
At a June 2020 meeting in Ohio, according to the FBI affidavit, Croft, Fox and others discussed governments that they believed “were violating the U.S. Constitution,” including Michigan’s. They agreed to “increase their numbers,” per the affidavit, and at that point, Fox allegedly reached out to the militia.
By that point, according to the affidavit, the group had already come to the attention of local law enforcement and the FBI for allegedly “attempting to obtain the addresses of local law-enforcement officers.”
Croft and Fox met with the militia group throughout June, according to the affidavit, including with Garbin, a leader in the group, at a Second Amendment rally on June 18.
It was there that Fox told Garbin and a confidential human source that “he planned to attack the Capitol and asked them to combine forces,” the affidavit alleged.
The eventual plot to kidnap the governor included months of planning and alleged surveillance trips to Whitmer’s vacation home, the location of which is not revealed in the court documents.
In early August, Harris allegedly texted others with a straightforward proposal: ‘“Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her . . . at this point. Fuck it.”
“I mean . . . fuck, catch her walking into the building and act like a passers-by and fixing dome her then yourself whoever does it,” he added.
Later, during an Aug. 29 surveillance trip, Fox allegedly said he was willing to kill law enforcement who responded to an incident at the vacation home.
“We ain’t gonna let ‘em burn our fuckin’ state down,” he said, per the affidavit. “I don’t give a fuck if there’s only 20 or 30 of us, dude, we’ll go out there and use deadly force.”
The group began finalizing plans to kidnap the governor in September, according to the affidavit. Fox claimed to an FBI informant that he’d purchased an 800,000-volt taser.
Fox also allegedly examined the underside of a Michigan state highway bridge, law enforcement said, for the purposes of placing an explosive.
The group even detonated an improvised explosive device wrapped in shrapnel to test its “anti-personnel capabilities,” Birge said.
Fox, Garbin, Harris and Franks planned to meet on Wednesday with someone who, unbeknownst to them, was an undercover law enforcement officer, to make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear, according to the affidavit. That is when law enforcement stepped in.
The seven defendants facing state charges are also in custody, Nessel said.
“The individuals in custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” she said.
Discussing the investigation Thursday, Birge said that the group used encrypted communications and codewords to avoid detection. On two occasions, members of the alleged conspiracy surveilled Whitmer’s vacation home and plotted to use explosives to divert police from the area, Birge said.
Or as Garbin allegedly put it in a text message to his co-conspirators, referring to potential to delay a police response if a nearby bridge was destroyed, “If the 🌉 go 👇, it also ❌ the 🌊.”
Read the affidavit below:
This post has been updated.