By Jennifer Gomori, MAP Editor with excerpts from news media

A group of 13 extremists from two militia groups have been arrested after plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials, endanger the lives of law enforcement officers, and overthrow the state government.

The Justice Department announced their capture in a press conference Oct. 8. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from various agencies worked across state lines to locate and arrest the suspects Oct. 7, who have been arrested on state and federal charges.

The six facing federal charges are: Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. All suspects are Michigan residents except Croft, a Delaware resident.

In her own press conference, Whitmer said the suspects “were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me.”

The plans to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home and attack the Michigan State Capitol, kidnapping state officials before the Nov. 3 election, both involved using explosives.

“I want to start by saying thank you to our law enforcement. Thank you to the fearless FBI agents and thank you to the brave Michigan State Troopers who participated in this operation acting under the leadership of Col. Joe Gapsper,” Whitmer said. “As a mom with two teenage daughters and three stepsons, my husband and I are eternally grateful to everyone who put themselves in harms way to keep our family safe.”

STATE CHARGES
Seven others, members of the militia group the Wolverine Watchman, have been charged under Michigan’s anti-terrorism law, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. They are: Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford; Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville; Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac; Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell; William Null, 38, of Shelbyville; Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, who live together in Munith.

They are alleged to have called on Wolverine Watchman members to locate home addresses of law enforcement officers to target them; made threats of violence to start a civil war leading to societal collapse; and planned and trained to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including the governor.

All seven were charged with providing material support for terrorist acts, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, felony firearm, a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively. Bellar, Musico and Morrison were also charged with gang membership, a 20-year felony that may be served consecutively. Morrison and Musico are additionally charged with threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine.

"This case is one of the largest cases in recent history that the MSP has been involved in," said Michigan State Police Col. Joe Gasper. "The nature of this case is rather unprecedented, but it does send a very vivid reminder that while we may be in a period of discourse, possibly even divisiveness and fighting across the nation, law enforcement stands united."

Whitmer asked Americans to put aside politics and unite to defeat their common enemy, COVID-19. “Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan,” Whitmer said. “If you break the law or conspire to commit heinous acts of violence against anyone we will find you. We will hold you accountable and we will bring you to justice.”

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in the Eastern District of Michigan commended the cooperation of state and federal officials. “At the end of the day, the people of Michigan should be reassured our state and federal government are working together to keep us all safe,” Schneider said.

Public tips regarding militia members’ social media posts alerted the FBI to their plans. Residents are encouraged to report tips to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALLFBI or visiting https://tips.fbi.gov/.