Thirteen people from a militia group are in custody after the FBI says they planned to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was elected into office 22 months ago and violently overthrow the government, according to an affidavit released by the Department of Justice.
"I knew this job would be hard but I will be honest, I never would imagine anything like this," Whitmer said in a recorded statement Thursday afternoon. "Attorney General Dana Nessel was joined by officials from the Department of Justice and FBI to announce state and federal charges of 13 members of two militia groups who were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me."
"Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit that was filed hours after a team of FBI agents raided a home in Hartland Township Wednesday. "The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message," read the affidavit originally obtained by The Detroit News.
The investigation began at the start of the year when the FBI learned an alleged plot to overthrow several state governments and law enforcement, according to published reports. Two of the arrested men and 13 others from various states, held a meeting in Dublin, Ohio, the News reported. An undercover FBI confidential source was present during the meetings –– and even recorded them, according to the affidavit. The source was reportedly paid $8,600 for the assignment. Another informant was paid approximately $14,800, according to the FBI.
“The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” according to the affidavit. “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions. At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer."
A local police department learned in March that members were trying to obtain addresses of local law-enforcement officers, according to the News. Following that discovery, the FBI says it began tracking the militia.
“At the time, the FBI interviewed a member of the militia group who was concerned about the group’s plans to target and kill police officers, and that person agreed to become a (confidential source),” the agent wrote.
The militia group would meet periodically for field training exercises on private property in remote areas of Michigan, where members would engage in firearms training and tactical drills, the affidavit states. Members also attempted to make explosive devices and discussed plans of shooting up the Governor's vacation home in the Western District of Michigan, according to the affidavit.
“Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude -- it’s over," one of the members was quoted in the document.
One of the named suspects posted a video on Facebook complaining about the state's judicial system and COVID-19 restrictions on gyms in Michigan, the outlet reported. Five of the alleged kidnappers are from Michigan and one is from Delaware.
“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” stated U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, Eastern District of Michigan.
Six men are facing federal charges and can each face life in prison. The seven additional individuals arrested in the case, are facing state charges for providing material support of terroristic activities and possessing a firearm in the course of that offense.