Six men conspired in a militia plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and take her to Wisconsin to put her on “trial” for “treason” before Election Day, according an FBI affidavit filed today.
Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta, all of Michigan, and Barry Croft of Delaware have been charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest: I never could have imagined anything like this,” Whitmer told reporters today.
The FBI became aware earlier this year “through social media that a group of individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement components,” says the criminal complaint, adding that Croft and Fox agreed “to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution.”
On June 6, the FBI said, Croft, Fox, and “approximately 13 other people from several states” gathered in Dublin, Ohio, for a meeting at which an FBI source was present. “The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient. They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions,” the document said. “…Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor. The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
After that, the affidavit continues, Fox reached out to a Michigan militia group — unnamed in the court document — that had been on the FBI’s radar since March, when the group was trying to obtain home addresses of local police. The FBI cultivated a source from that investigation: “a member of the militia group who was concerned about the group’s plans to target and kill police officers.” The militia routinely conducts firearms training and tactical drills in rural Michigan.
Fox and Croft met the militia in June, the FBI said. Fox, Garbin, and militia members met with an FBI source at a Second Amendment rally at the State Capitol in Lansing at which Fox said “he planned to attack the Capitol and asked them to combine forces,” the FBI said, adding that Fox said he needed 200 men for the operation, planned to take hostages, and planned to try Whitmer for “treason” before the presidential election.
Fox later streamed a video to a Facebook group that included the FBI source “in which he complained about the judicial system and the State of Michigan controlling the opening of gyms” and “referred to Governor Whitmer as ‘this tyrant bitch.'” At a July meeting, the FBI said Garbin suggested shooting up the governor’s vacation home. On audio recorded by the source, Fox “described it as a ‘Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.’” They planned to move Whitmer to Wisconsin for “trial,” the FBI said; in an August group chat, Harris allegedly said, “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her . . . at this point. Fuck it.”
In a call recorded by the source in July, Fox allegedly said, “In all honesty right now . . . I just wanna make the world glow, dude. I’m not even fuckin’ kidding. I just wanna make it all glow dude. I don’t fuckin’ care anymore, I’m just so sick of it. That’s what it’s gonna take for us to take it back, we’re just gonna have to everything’s gonna have to be annihilated man. We’re gonna topple it all, dude. It’s what great frickin’ conquerors, man, we’re just gonna conquer every fuckin’ thing man.”
In late August, Fox, the FBI source, and another unnamed individual conducted surveillance on Whitmer’s vacation home. In mid-September, the group met for more training at which the FBI said Croft constructed and tested an improvised explosive device. During another surveillance session outside the home, Fox and Croft allegedly discussed detonating explosives at a nearby bridge to distract law enforcement while the militia raided the home. Fox allegedly later discussed how their kidnapping could snowball into other militia operations: “I can see several states takin’ their fuckin’ tyrants. Everybody takes their tyrants.”
In a Sept. 17 group chat, the FBI said Fox asked the group what they “thought of a militia group invitation to participate in an armed protest at the State Capitol. Garbin replied, ‘I would highly advise minimizing any communication with him. Also there needs to be zero and i mean zero public interaction if we want to continue with our plans.’ Caserta replied, ‘When the time comes there will be no need to try and strike fear through presence. The fear will be manifested through bullets.’”
The affidavit said Fox purchased an 800,000-volt taser Oct. 2 to use in the kidnapping of Whitmer. Fox, Garbin, Harris, and Franks then met with an undercover FBI employee Oct. 7 to make a payment on explosives and exchange tactical gear. Garbin’s home in Hartland Township was raided by FBI agents late Wednesday.
Michigan State Police Col. Joe Gasper told reporters that the “nature of this case is rather unprecedented, but it does send a very vivid reminder that while we may be in a period of discourse, possibly even divisiveness and fighting across the nation, law enforcement stands united.”
In May, armed protesters demonstrated at Michigan’s Capitol against Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, about a thousand armed protesters at the Capitol demonstrated against proposals to ban weapons from the building.