An anti-government bomb plot was thwarted in Oklahoma after officials zeroed in on a plan by a local resident. The man has been arrested and charged in connection with the crime.
Jerry Drake Varnell, of Sayre, Oklahoma, was arrested by the FBI Saturday after he allegedly tried to detonate a fake bomb.
The criminal complaint, filed in federal court, says the incident occurred outside a BancFirst bank in Oklahoma, and that Varnell had a history of spouting hatred against the U.S. government.
Varnell, 23, allegedly talked about wanting to blow up buildings. But, apparently, he was concerned about human life and planned to conduct an attack that “would result in the fewest deaths,” according to The Washington Post.
In the official complaint, authorities say Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City attack.
Man charged with car-bomb plot on Oklahoma City bank – Jerry Drake Varnell professed a hatred for the governmen… https://t.co/Jb7vS8QRHh
— JamesBurnsConsulting (@jburnsconsult) August 14, 2017
Instead, Varnell targeted the bank with what he believed to be an explosives-laden van. As the complaint explains, Varnell’s intentions drew the attention of law enforcement agents. An undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could help him carry out his plot.
Allegedly, Varnell identified BancFirst as the target, prepared a statement that was meant to be posted on social media after the explosion, helped the undercover agent assemble the device, assisted in loading it into what he believed was a stolen van, then drove the van by himself from El Reno to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City.
He parked the van in an alley next to BancFirst and dialed a number on a cellular telephone to trigger the explosion he thought the van was wired to deliver.
Authorities have now charged him with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce.
“There was never a concern that our community’s safety or security was at risk during this investigation,” said Kathryn Peterson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oklahoma. “I can assure the public, without hesitation, that we had Varnell’s actions monitored every step of the way.”
Officials with BancFirst released the following statement:
“BancFirst has been working cooperatively with the FBI. At no time were employees, customers or the general public ever in any danger. We believe our BancFirst downtown Oklahoma City building was a random and convenient selection by the suspect. There is no further threat or reason for concern. We take comfort and our company embraces a deep appreciation and admiration for the men and women of the FBI for their diligent and dedicated work in protecting our nation.”
U.S. Attorney Mark Yancey also issued a statement. “I commend the devoted work of the FBI and our state law enforcement partners in ensuring that violent plots of this kind never succeed,” Yancey said.
The arrest is the result of an 8-month long investigation. If convicted, Varnell will reportedly face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court at 3 p.m. Monday in Oklahoma City. Authorities say they will seek an indictment from the grand jury within 30 days.
In the video below, officials in Oklahoma made a statement about the incident and arrest.
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