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FBI thwarted militia plot to kidnap Whitmer, overthrow state government

13 men facing state and federal charges after a series of search warrants Wednesday evening
Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 11:43 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The FBI says it thwarted a plot involving the Michigan militia, which allegedly planned to overthrow the state government and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

ABC12 News has learned a series of federal search warrants were conducted around Michigan on Wednesday, including one in Shiawassee County’s Ovid area. The militia group was plotting and carrying out surveillance for the kidnapping plan, investigators say.

The six suspects facing federal charges are Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta, all of Michigan, and Barry Croft of Delaware. They will appear in U.S. District Court in Grands Rapids for arraignment soon.

The six suspects could face up to life in federal prison if they are convicted of their alleged roles in the plot.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also issued several charges against seven more people allegedly associated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia group.

She accused the suspects of trying to identify the home addresses of police officers, planning violence and attempting to instigate a civil war, along with helping plan the alleged plot to storm the Michigan Capitol and kidnap Whitmer. The suspects all are in custody and facing charges under the Michigan Terrorism Act.

The seven state suspects and their criminal charges are:

  • Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford -- Providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.
  • Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville -- Providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.
  • Eric Molitor, 26, of Cadillac -- Providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.
  • Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell -- Providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.
  • William Null of Shelbyville -- Providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.
  • Pete Musico, 42, of Munith -- Making a threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.
  • Joseph Morrison, 26, of Munith -- Making a threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm while committing a felony.

Beller, Musico and Morrison all face up to 42 years in prison if convicted while Fix, Molitor and the Nulls all face up to 22 years in prison if convicted.

A leader of the alleged plot allegedly told other people involved that he needed 200 men to storm the Michigan Capitol building and take Whitmer hostage before the Nov. 3 election. The group also talked about kidnapping Whitmer at her vacation home in northern Michigan, court documents say.

A 16-page criminal complaint says the FBI learned of the alleged plot to violently overthrow parts of the government and law enforcement in March. A police department in Michigan learned of attempts to obtain addresses of officers and passed along the information to the FBI.

FBI investigators say the group brought up Michigan as a possible target. Several members allegedly talked about murdering “tyrants” and “taking” a sitting governor. They repeatedly expressed outrage over Whitmer’s use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group talked on encrypted messaging platforms and used code words to evade detection, court documents say.

An FBI agent spoke with a member of the militia group, who grew concerned about the alleged plot and agreed to become an undercover informant, court documents say.

The group allegedly participated in several events during the summer, including rallies at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, and recruited members. Leaders of the group also met at a business in Grand Rapids in a room accessed through a trap door in the floor, according to court documents.

Militia members allegedly practiced tactical exercises and shooting firearms several times near Munith in Jackson County over the summer, including work with improvised explosive devices. One member of the group spent $4,000 on a tactical helmet and nightvision goggles and another bought a Taser, according to investigators.

Court documents say members of the militia group conducted surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation residence in August and September -- once during the day and once during the night. They allegedly talked about plans to bomb a bridge to divert police and carry out the plot to kidnap Whitmer.

At some points during the alleged planning, court documents say members of the group also discussed assassinating Whitmer or sending a bomb to her residence.

The group allegedly was making finals plans to carry out a plot this week when investigators closed in and carried out the series of search warrants. The final plans included a $4,000 purchase of explosives and settling on a date for the attack, which hadn’t been determined.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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