Three alleged militia members accused of plotting to bomb a Somali immigrant community in Kansas were formally charged Monday with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, the latest development in a case that underscores the threat of domestic terrorism at a time when the U.S. national security debate has increasingly focused on international groups.
Federal prosecutors say Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Stein are members of The Crusaders, a militia with “sovereign citizen, anti-government, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant extremist beliefs.”
The case began several months ago when the FBI received a tip from an informant who attended several Crusaders meetings, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas. The source told the feds the group planned to attack Muslims — whom they referred to as “cockroaches” — in southwestern Kansas.
The militia members met regularly, according to the complaint, and communicated through an app called Zello that encrypted their phone conversations. The FBI found that the group “routinely expressed a hatred for Muslims, individuals of Somali descent, and immigrants” and was able to identify the architects of the evolving terror plot.
The group allegedly planned to use an improvised explosive device to blow up an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, where many Somali immigrants worship and live, on Nov. 9, one day after the general election.
The charging documents also detail the extent of the militia’s surveillance of Muslim communities in Kansas. The FBI’s informant said Stein would often come equipped on the outings with a pistol, an assault rifle, ammo, a bulletproof vest, and a night-vision scope. On several occasions, Stein allegedly shouted “fucking raghead bitches” when passing Somali women in traditional garb.
The complaint refers to one conversation from April where Stein allegedly said, “Make sure if you start using your bow on them cockroaches, make sure you dip them in pig’s blood before you shoot them.” One of the group’s members also allegedly said, “The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.”
The complaint cites one Zello conversation in May where Stein allegedly explained his motives for wanting to attack Muslims.
“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. “Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back.”
The bombing plot began to take shape in July, prosecutors allege. The three suspects began meeting at Wright’s modular-home business in Liberal, Kansas, where Allen, the third defendant, also worked.
Wright allegedly used Google Maps to identify possible targets, labeling them “cockroaches,” and printed out guides for making explosives. By August, authorities say, the men had chosen the apartment complex as their target. The informant introduced the three men to an undercover agent who was posing as a weapons trafficker. The agent showcased his wares — borrowed from the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Virginia — and discussed prices.
On Oct. 11, Allen’s girlfriend called the local police to say that Allen had been abusive, possessed weapons, and had fled the area. In the weeks prior to the phone call, according to the complaint, the three men became increasingly concerned about how much Allen’s girlfriend knew about their plot.
When authorities tracked Allen down, they discovered a large amount of ammunition in his vehicle. Allen’s girlfriend told authorities that she had seen bomb-making materials at his business, and the next day authorities conducted searches and found evidence that backed up her claims.
News of the thwarted plot has rattled the Muslim community in Garden City. On Saturday, hundreds of Somalis, Malaysians, and Burmese gathered to hear the FBI and law enforcement briefing, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“The only answer I can give you about why this happened is that they wanted to attack your religious beliefs,” Garden City Police Chief Michael Utz said. “But you need to know that whether you are an immigrant or not, you are all Garden Citians.”