A domestic terrorism suspect in Belton, Missouri who allegedly planned to carbomb a hospital struggling with the coronavirus pandemic died while the FBI was trying to arrest him Tuesday, the agency confirmed. It is currently unclear whether FBI agents shot him or how he died.
The news comes at a time when counterterrorism experts have warned neo-Nazi extremists adhering to ‘accelerationism’—a hyper violent doctrine among the far-right seeking to hasten the collapse of society through terrorist acts—have discussed using the global coronavirus pandemic to spur the disintegration of vulnerable governments dealing with the crisis.
After a months-long domestic terrorism investigation into Timothy Wilson, 36, the FBI determined he was a “violent extremist” and an imminent threat to public safety. Counterterrorism agents intercepted him and attempted to arrest him as he picked up what the agency believed was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) meant for the attack. The FBI said that Wilson was trying to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis.
“With the current health crisis, Wilson decided to accelerate his plan to use a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in an attempt to cause severe harm and mass casualties,” the FBI said. “Wilson considered various targets and ultimately settled on an area hospital in an attempt to harm many people, targeting a facility that is providing critical medical care in today's environment.”
“Wilson had taken the necessary steps to acquire materials needed to build an explosive device," the statement continued.
While multiple local media reports suggest Wilson, who the FBI said was armed at the time of arrest, was killed by a federal agent, the release indicated he was injured during the operation but doesn’t make it clear whether he died in a gunfight or if he killed himself. The New York Times reported Wilson considered targeting a school with a large population of black students, a mosque, and synagogue before ultimately settling on the hospital.
Days earlier, the mayor of Belton issued a stay at home order to residents in a move to stem the continued community transmission of the virus.
The death of Wilson is sure to precipitate online chatter within the militant neo-Nazi ecosystem where talk of a supposed FBI hit list of far-right operatives has spread for weeks since the pandemic first began. In a post viewed over a thousand times, one prominent Telegram channel among neo-Nazi extremists mused in early March that followers were in danger of being “physcially removed by feds."
“Political dissidents are going to be systematically eliminated during the chaos of this outbreak… I'm not going to lie to you. You're in danger. You're definitely on a list somewhere,” it warned.
In recent months, the FBI has undertaken nationwide probes resulting in the arrests of multiple members of neo-Nazi terror groups The Base and Atomwaffen Division in a signal that thwarting and disrupting domestic terrorism activities is a top priority of the bureau.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.