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FBI Nabs Anti-Government Extremist in Foiled Oklahoma City Bomb Plot

Jerry Drake Varnell allegedly subscribed to "Three Percenter" ideology and hoped to "cripple the government" with the blast by targeting a local bank.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Photo via the Oklahoma Department of Corrections/AP

On Saturday, the FBI arrested a 23-year-old man for allegedly plotting to set off a 1,000-pound bomb near a bank building in Oklahoma City, an attack the bureau says was motivated by a broad hatred of the US government, the Washington Post reports.

Jerry Drake Varnell allegedly spent months planning the attack with a co-conspirator who—unbeknownst to him—was actually an undercover FBI agent. Varnell, who voiced a deep-seated contempt for the US government, allegedly mulled targeting government buildings in Maryland and Washington, DC, along with a Bank of America data center in Texas. Ultimately, he took aim at a BancFirst building in Oklahoma City, according to a criminal complaint.


On Friday, he allegedly watched as his 1,000-pound bomb was constructed before driving it, in a van, to an alley near the bank building. Little did Varnell know that the bomb was actually a dud, and when he tried to detonate it shortly after midnight, it never went off, Reuters reports. After two attempted detonations, he was arrested.

According to court papers, Varnell subscribes to "Three Percenter" ideology: a bizarre anti-government group that believes only 3 percent of the colonial population participated in the American Revolution. The group's followers claim to be heirs to members of that slim contingent. The feds also said Varnell was inspired by Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001 for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people. Varnell's bomb targeted a bank building just blocks from the Murrah building.

Though Varnell originally wanted his would-be attack to claim lives—he reportedly said he was "out for blood"—eventually, he resolved to minimize any casualties, according to court papers. Apparently, all he cared about was an attack that could "somehow cripple the government," the Post reports. "Something that sends a message that says, 'You are a target.'"

Varnell is slated to make his first appearance in federal court on Monday on a charge of attempted destruction of a building by means of an explosive. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

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