Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Man Arrested in Plan to Bomb Oklahoma Bank

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Man Arrested in Plan to Bomb Oklahoma Bank

Article excerpt

By Tim Talley

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A 23-year-old man who was "out for blood" when he attempted to detonate what he believed was an explosives-laden van outside an Oklahoma bank in a plot similar to the deadly 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, authorities said Monday.

During a meeting with undercover FBI agents in June, Jerry Drake Varnell of Sayre, Oklahoma, said he held "III% ideology" and wanted "to start the next revolution," a reference to the "Three Percenters" patriot movement -- begun in 2008, galvanized by President Barack Obama's election -- and that has rallied against gun control efforts and pledges resistance to the federal government over the infringement of constitutional rights.

Federal officials arrested Varnell early Saturday in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb in an alley adjacent to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City. Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce.

Varnell made an initial appearance before a federal judge Monday afternoon and remains in the custody of federal marshals. Court records do not indicate whether Varnell is represented by an attorney.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the allegations are a somber reminder that Americans must remain vigilant about home-grown extremism and radicalization in local communities.

A III% group said Varnell had joined their group less than a year ago but was never active and has been removed from its membership rolls. In a statement, III% United Patriots spokesman Dylan Hunter says the group condemns Varnell's alleged acts.

"His claim about following the III% ideology are blatantly false as we do not condone acts of terrorism," Hunter said.

On Saturday, a rally by white nationalists and others opposed to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville, Virginia, park turned violent and led to the death of a 32-year-old woman who was struck by a car allegedly driven by a man into a crowd of people protesting the rally. A Virginia State Police helicopter deployed in a large-scale police response to the violence then crashed into the woods outside of town and both troopers on board died.

A federal complaint filed on Sunday says a confidential informant told the FBI in December that Varnell wanted to blow up a building and "that Varnell was upset with the government and was seeking retaliation."

Officials said Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

In a series of text messages with the FBI's informant, Varnell "claimed to have a bunker for when the world (or United States) collapsed" and indicated he was trying to build a team, the complaint states. …

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