Nine suspects tied to a Christian militia in the Midwest are charged with conspiring to kill police officers, then attack a funeral in the hopes of killing more law enforcement personnel, federal prosecutors said Monday.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said agents moved on the group because the Hutaree members were planning a violent reconaissance mission sometime in April – just a few days away.
Members of the group called Hutaree are charged in the case, including their leader, David Brian Stone, also known as “Captain Hutaree.”
Once other officers gathered for a slain officer’s funeral, the group planned to detonate homemade bombs at the funeral, killing more, according to newly unsealed court papers.
According to the indictment, the idea of attacking a police funeral was one of numerous scenarios discussed as ways to go after law enforcement officers. Other scenarios included a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his or her death, or an attack on the family of a police officer.
After such attacks, the group allegedly planned to retreat to “rally points” protected by trip-wired improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, for what they expected would become a violent standoff with law enforcement personnel.
“It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more wide-sread uprising against the government,” the indictment charges.
It includes charges of seditious conspiracy, possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction – homemade bombs.
The indictment charges members of the group conspired “to levy war against the United States, (and) to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States.”
The charges follow FBI raids over the weekend on locations in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
According to investigators, the Hutaree view local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel as a “brotherhood” and an enemy, and planned to attack them as part of an armed struggle against the U.S. government.
Eight suspects have been arrested by the FBI, and one more is being sought. Of the eight captured, seven are due in court later Monday.
Andrew Arena, head of the FBI’s field office in Detroit, said the case “is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society. The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States.”
On its Web site, Hutaree quotes several Bible passages and states: “We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. … Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.”
The group didn’t return an e-mail sent by The Associated Press and phone numbers for the group’s leadership were not immediately available.
Law enforcement swarmed a rural, wooded property Saturday evening near Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. Two ramshackle trailers sat side-by-side on the property, the door to one slightly ajar late Sunday as if it had been forced open.
Phyllis Brugger, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said some people who lived there were known as having ties to militia. They would shoot guns and often wore camouflage, according to Brugger and her daughter, Heidi Wood.
“Everybody knew they were militia,” Brugger said. “You don’t mess with them.”
In Hammond, Ind., 18-year-old George Ponce, who works at a pizzeria next door to a home that was raided, said he and a few co-workers stepped outside for a break Saturday night and saw a swarm of law enforcement.
“I heard a yell, ‘Get back inside!’ and saw a squad member pointing a rifle at us,” Ponce said. “They told us the bomb squad was going in, sweeping the house looking for bombs.”
He said another agent was in the bushes near the house, and law enforcement vehicles were “all over.” He estimated that agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.
In Ohio, one of the raids occurred at Bayshore Estates, a well-kept trailer park in Sandusky, a small city on Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland. Neighbors said the man taken into custody lived in a trailer on a cul-de-sac with his wife and two young children.