The militia group plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hatched their plan — which included firebombing police vehicles — in the basement of a vacuum store in Grand Rapids, according to news reports.
Six men were arrested by the FBI on Wednesday and charged with attempting to kidnap the governor, while seven others tied to the scheme were arrested and charged with state terrorism threats targetting law enforcement officers.
Whitmer has thanked law enforcement for foiling the plot but criticized President Trump for inciting violence.
“Last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said during a Thursday news conference. “Stand back and stand by, he told them.”
Since early 2020, the six men — Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — had been allegedly plotting to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home before Nov. 3, according to the Detroit Free Press. The men had been in communication on social media and met in the basement of a vacuum store in Grand Rapids.
The owner, Brian Titus, told Fox News on Friday that he knew Fox, the 37-year-old leader of the operation, was part of a militia group and attended rallies in Lansing, but nothing beyond that.
“I’ve been trying to tell him to get out of the militia because you’re wasting your time. … You need to get out,” Titus said. “Of course, he didn’t listen. He got involved with some radicals.”
Titus told the Free Press that he had known Fox since he was a kid and was allowing him to stay in the basement of his shop until Nov. 1 to help him get on his feet.
“What he did is just uncalled for. [He] just crossed the line,” Titus told the paper. “And he put his mom, me and his family all at risk. Even his dogs are homeless.”
Titus also took issue with the media’s portrayal of his basement door, which is located on the floor of his shop and leads to basement steps, as a “trap door” or “secret door,” telling the Free Press: “This ain’t a secret door. It’s a door, but it’s not a trap door.”
The six men — and one paid undercover FBI informant who communicated with the militia group online and in-person — attended the basement meetings.
During one meeting on June 20, Fox appeared nervous that someone may have infiltrated the group and took members’ phones and brought them upstairs in a box, according to the Free Press.
During the meeting, which the wired informant captured on audio, militia members discussed plans to attack the Michigan State Capitol, push back against law enforcement and destroy police vehicles with Molotov cocktails, the outlet reported.
Fox streamed a Facebook Live video from a Facebook group that included the FBI informant and other members of the militia five days after the vacuum store meeting in which he shared complaints about the judicial system, state coronavirus lockdown regulations and Whitmer, calling her a “tyrant b**ch,” according to the Free Press.
“I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something,” Fox says in the video, which has since been preserved by the FBI, the outlet reported. “Give me some ideas of what we can do.”
The FBI proceeded to track the militia group for the next two months until last week, when Fox and the others in his group met up in Ypsilanti on Wednesday to buy explosives so they could blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s vacation house in order to keep police away. Agents were waiting to arrest the men when they arrived.
If the men are convicted, they could face life sentences.
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