WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former militia officer testified Monday that he left the group in 2016 following the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub out of concern some of the other members were plotting to attack Somalis in their small Kansas community.
Brody Benson took the stand against three men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex in the meatpacking town of Garden City, 220 miles (350 kilometers) west of Wichita. Benson said the Kansas Security Force had three divisions in the state, and the militia’s purpose was to provide security in the event of natural disaster or a governmental breakdown in which first responders were not available.
Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein also faces a weapons-related charges and Wright faces a charge of lying to the FBI. The three men, who were indicted in October 2016, have pleaded not guilty.
Benson testified he was “taken aback a little bit by statements” Stein made saying Somalis should be eradicated, including women and children.
Much of his testimony focused on a June 14, 2016, meeting at his shooting range in western Kansas that he described as a “recruitment to carry out offensive action.” He testified Stein and Allen were there, along with Dan Day, who prosecutors have said was an informant. That meeting occurred days after the attack at a gay nightclub in which 49 people were killed.
Stein cited the nightclub attack and talked about using high explosives at Garden City apartments where the Somalis were living, Benson said.
“It made me very concerned,” Benson said. “I actually thought it was not just talk. It was more of an actual action, action.”
He said that prompted him to resign his position in the Kansas Security Force and leave the group.
“After that meeting I was done,” he said. “I was out.”
Benson told jurors he also thought Stein might be a government informant, because he was also trying to recruit and get people “to commit an illegal act.” He said he had no idea Day was the informant.