DETROIT (WOOD) – Several men face charges for allegedly plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, even going so far as to watch her vacation home and build bombs, authorities say.
A court document filed Tuesday identifies the suspects in a federal case as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. All the suspects except for Croft, who is from Delaware, are from Michigan. All face up to life in prison if convicted.
At the state level, three men were charged Thursday with counts of providing material support for a terrorist act and felony firearms in Antrim County for their roles in the plot. The suspects included William Null, 38, of Shelbyville and Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell and Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac. Bond was set at $250,000 for all three and they were ordered not to have any contact with the governor should they post that bond and be released.
At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office had filed those charges. She added charges had also been issued against four other men, all of whom are in custody:
- Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford: Providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership, and felony firearm.
- Sean Fix, 38, of Belleville: Providing material support for terrorist acts and felony firearm.
- Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, who live together in Munith, northeast of Jackson: threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts, felony firearm. They are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in Jackson County.
Nessel said a coordinated effort led police to execute search warrants over the previous 48 hours in several Michigan towns.
Police are still on the scene in Munith, northeast of Jackson. While a previous version of this report indicated that was a standoff, MSP has clarified it is not and that it is instead a continuing search.
Whitmer will hold a press conference at 3 p.m.
FEDERAL COURT DOCUMENT OUTLINES PLOT
In a 15-page criminal complaint, an FBI agent wrote that talk of targeting the governor surfaced as early as June as Fox, Croft and others who shared the same views met in Dublin, Ohio. They were angry at governors — including Whitmer — who issued mandates in response to the coronavirus that shut down businesses, arguing they were violating the Constitution.
That conversation prompted Fox to reach out to a militia group. While that group was not named in the document, Nessel said the charges she issued were against members of the militia Wolverine Watchmen. News 8 previously spoke to the Nulls, two of the suspects arraigned in Antrim County, as members of the Barry County-based Michigan Liberty Militia.
The FBI says it had already been keeping an eye on that militia after online posts about overthrowing the government. It said a member of the group was worried about plans to kill police and agreed to become an informant. It was through that informant and others the FBI gathered much of its information, though it also had undercover officers involved.
Authorities allege that as conversations continued over the following months, sometimes at tactical training sessions at militia members’ properties, a firm plan formed.
“Fox described it as a ‘Snatch and grab, man. Grab the (expletive) Governor. Just grab the (expletive). Because that that point, we do that, dude — it’s over,’” the criminal complaint reads in part.
The plan was to take Whitmer to Wisconsin and hold a kangaroo court trial for treason.
According to the document, the militia members talked about storming the state Capitol in Lansing, armed with Molotov cocktails and engaging with police, but Garbin shut that idea down.
It was then the focus turned to the governor’s vacation home. The suspects allegedly figured out where that house was and went there at least twice to scope it out.
The FBI agent said Fox bought a Taser to use in the attack. Garbin suggested blowing up a nearby bridge in an effort to slow the police response.
During one test, authorities said, the suspects managed to successfully detonate a bomb with shrapnel wrapped around it.
There was talk of actually carrying out the plan on the night of Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, but Croft thought the time was not right, so the suspects held off. They wanted to do it before the Nov. 3 election.
FRIEND: FOX RECENTLY ‘CHANGED’
Online records show Fox was booked into the Kent County jail on Wednesday.
He had been staying at the Vac Shack at the intersection of S. Division Avenue and 36th Street in Grand Rapids, which was raided by the FBI Wednesday.
The store’s owner Brian Titus told News 8 he has known Fox since he was a child. He said he knew Fox was in a militia but didn’t know how serious his anti-government opinions had gotten.
“I thought he was just trying to stand up for our constitutional rights,” Titus, clearly upset, said.
He said Fox had “changed” in the last eight months, objecting to wearing a mask because he thought it was a violation of his rights. Titus said he attended a protest with other militia members at the state Capitol over the summer.
“I knew he (Fox) belong to the militia but I didn’t know it was this deep. He kept it pretty quiet,” he said.
Titus said he had no idea about the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer. He said Fox kept some ammunition and firearms at the store, a 9 mm and two assault weapons. However, there was no explosives kept there, he said.
“He was anti-police, anti-government. He was afraid if he didn’t stand up for the Second Amendment and his rights that the country is going to go communism and socialism,” Titus said.
Titus stressed it is safe to coming into his store. He said he was trying to help Fox, who was homeless. Titus told Fox he needed to be out by November.
“When you go out and help out people this is what happens. They (FBI) weren’t looking at anything I done wrong because I didn’t know about it,” Titus said.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, condemned the kidnapping conspiracy:
“A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all. We condemn those who plotted against her and our government,” the statement reads. “They are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”