Suspect Arrested After Foiled Car Bombing Plot In Downtown OKC

Posted August 15, 2017

An Oklahoma man was arrested and accused of trying to blow up a van loaded with 1000lb of fake explosives in downtown Oklahoma City, the Justice Department said.

Jerry Varnell, 23, was arrested Saturday after attempting to trigger what he thought was an ammonium nitrate fertilizer bomb - like McVeigh's - outside a BancFirst branch in the center of the city, according to a criminal complaint filed in Oklahoma district court.

He then drove from El Reno to BancFirst in Oklahoma City, and dialed a number on a cell phone he thought would detonate the explosive. He's been charged with attempted destruction of a building in interstate commerce.

The complaint also states that Varnell prepared a statement to be posted on Facebook after the explosion which reads in part that the attack was "retaliation against the freedoms that have been taken away from the American people" and "an act done to show the government what the people think of its actions".

Varnell told investigators he supported the far-right "III%ers" anti-government movement and wanted to form his own armed militia.

Varnell said the undercover employee did not understand how deeply he hated the government and that sometimes to make an omelette, "you got to crack a few eggs", though he also wanted to make sure the bombing happened after hours.

But an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posed as someone who could help Varnell build a bomb and the device used was actually inert, authorities said.

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In one text message with the agent, Varnell said he was "out for blood". "I can assure the public, without hesitation, that we had Varnell's actions monitored every step of the way".

"Something needs to be done", Varnell said, but killing a lot of people was not a good idea, according to the complaint.

Days earlier, he recorded a message to be posted online after the attack, telling an undercover informant that it was important to have a statement ready to post to social media in order to prevent other groups such as the so-called Islamic State from claiming credit for the attack.

US Attorney Mark Yancey said at the same press conference on Monday that Varnell was in the custody of the US Marshals Service ahead of an anticipated appearance before federal court in Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon.

Varnell's alleged months-long efforts to obtain explosive devices, pick and case his target, and find anti-government allies willing to support his crusade are detailed at length in the complaint.

If convicted, authorities say Varnell could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and no less than five years. The FBI and members of a Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Varnell shortly before 1 a.m.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma says it's chilling that someone would want to commit an act of terror in Oklahoma City as a tribute to the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.