Three Kansas men face federal charges after authorities said Friday they uncovered a plot to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants.
The men — Gavin Wright, 49, Patrick Eugene Stein, 47, and Curtis Allen, 49 — are accused of planning to use a weapon of mass destruction to target the community in an act of terrorism, according to charges filed in federal court on Friday.
“These three defendants conspired to conduct a bombing attack against an apartment complex occupied by men, women and children in the Garden City, Kansas community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall of the District of Kansas in a statement. “Protecting our nation from such attacks, whether they are rooted in domestic or international terrorism, is our highest priority.”
In February, the FBI launched an investigation on the men, who are members of a militia group called the Crusaders. A “confidential source” first reported their activities to authorities, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
In a criminal complaint, the men are alleged to have gathered “firearms, ammunition and explosive components” and contemplated attacking several different locations before settling on the apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, where a mosque used by residents is also located.
Recordings acquired by the FBI show the men railing against immigrants and Muslims, the Washington Post reported.
Stein met with an undercover FBI agent in September, when he sought to acquire guns. The criminal complaint alleges the group also discussed using four vehicles packed with explosives in areas surrounding the apartment complex.
On Saturday, as new details emerged about the men, the Post reported Allen’s girlfriend this week showed the authorities a room containing some of the weapons they had planned to use in an attack. She said she decided to speak with authorities when Allen struck her on Tuesday after a fight over money. Allen was subsequently arrested on a domestic battery charge.
The authorities moved to arrest the men on federal charges after Stein brought an undercover FBI agent to the complex on Wednesday, where the authorities said he revealed a strategy to use explosives. Stein allegedly told the agent the trio would use ammonium nitrate to make the bombs, a method used in 1995 by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, according to the Associated Press.
“These charges are based on eight months of investigation by the FBI that is alleged to have taken the investigators deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Beall. “Many Kansans may find it as startling as I do that such things could happen here.”
Dr. John Birky, who works with the Somali community, told the AP about 300 to 500 Somali refugees reside in the area where the attacks were planned.
The men’s’ next court appearance is set for Monday. If they are found guilty of the charges they could face up to life in prison.