The Michigan-based group, called Hutaree, planned to use the attack on police as a catalyst for a larger uprising against the government, according to newly unsealed court papers. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said agents moved quickly on the group because its members were planning a violent mission sometime in April.
Members of the group, including its leader, David Brian Stone, also known as “Captain Hutaree,” were charged following FBI raids over the weekend on locations in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Seven people were arraigned in Detroit on Monday, and another one of Stone’s sons, Joshua, is being sought.
Stone’s ex-wife, Donna Stone, told The Associated Press before the arraignments that her former husband was to blame for pulling her son into the movement. She said David Brian Stone legally adopted her son, David Brian Stone Jr., who is among those indicted.
“It started out as a Christian thing,” said Donna Stone, 44. “You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far.”
According to the indictment, the group had been meeting and conducting military-style training exercises in the Michigan woods since 2008 to prepare for an impending war with its enemies. Members practiced building and detonating explosives and shooting firearms and built storage bunkers, investigators said.
The group says on its Web site that Hutaree means “Christian warrior” and describes the word as part of a secret language that few are privileged to know. The group quotes several Bible passages and states: “We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. … Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.”
The site also features a picture on the site of 17 camouflaged men, all holding large guns, and includes videos of camouflaged men toting guns and running through wooded areas in apparent training exercises. Each wears a patch on his left shoulder that bears a cross and two red spears.
According to investigators, the Hutaree view local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel as a “brotherhood” and an enemy, and planned to attack them as part of an armed struggle against the U.S. government.
The idea of attacking a police funeral was one of numerous scenarios discussed as ways to go after law enforcement officers, the indictment said. Other scenarios included using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his or her death, killing an officer after a traffic stop or an attacking the family of a police officer.
Once other officers gathered for a slain officer’s funeral, the group planned to detonate homemade bombs at the funeral, killing scores more, according to the indictment.
After the attacks, the group allegedly planned to retreat to “rally points” protected by trip-wired improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, for what they expected would become a violent standoff with law enforcement personnel.
The indictment says members of the group conspired “to levy war against the United States, (and) to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States.”
The charges against the eight include seditious conspiracy, possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — homemade bombs. All seven defendants in court on Monday requested to be represented by the federal defender’s office, and a bond hearing is set for Wednesday.
The arrests have dealt “a severe blow to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.
The raids on the group began over the weekend. FBI agents in Michigan swarmed a rural, wooded property Saturday evening in Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. The same night in Hammond, Ind., law enforcement agents flooded a neighborhood, startling workers at a nearby pizzeria. In Ohio, authorities blocked off streets and raided two homes.
Outside Adrian, Heidi Wood, who lives near the property that was raided, said she hears gunshots “all the time” from near two ramshackle trailers that sit side-by-side. On Monday, a long gun leaned against a washing machine that sat in the yard, and on top of a nearby canister was another long gun.
Wood’s mother, Phyllis Brugger, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said Stone and his family were known as having ties to militia. They would shoot guns and often wore camouflage, she said.
“Everybody knew they were militia,” Brugger said. “You don’t mess with them.”
In Ohio, one of the raids occurred at Bayshore Estates, a well-kept trailer park in Sandusky, a small city on Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland. Neighbors said the man taken into custody lived in a trailer on a cul-de-sac with his wife and two young children.
The man’s wife, Kelly Sickles, said her husband collected guns as a hobby. Agents searched their home for bomb-making materials, she said, but she couldn’t believe her husband, Kristopher Sickles, 27, could be connected to a group that was plotting anything violent.
“He doesn’t even know how to make a bomb,” she said. “We had no bomb material here.”