The five were initially planning to use high-powered C-4 explosives to take down the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge which crosses from Brecksville, Ohio, to Sagamore Hills, Ohio, over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to a federal complaint.
Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force on Monday night on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23.
The men are self-professed anarchists who have formed a small group intent on violent attacks that evolved in a series of plots hatched the past several months, say FBI agents in Cleveland. The bridge attack was timed to coincide with May Day, said federal officers.
After the Ohio attacks, the men would focus on waging similar assaults in Chicago during the upcoming NATO summit, according to FBI Special Agent Ryan Taylor. According to Agent Ryan's affidavit, the five anarchists wanted body armor, helmets and gas masks to wear in Chicago, which was "the main place they were worried about having the protective gear because there is no telling what they might have to use there."
Suspect Douglas Wright is quoted by the FBI as saying that "it will be crazy in Cleveland, but crazier in Chicago with people coming from everywhere to Chicago to protest the NATO summit."
Apparently recorded during a conversation with an undercover FBI informant, Wright predicted "a s--t load" of anarchists will go to Chicago after passing through Cleveland, after leaving the northern Ohio city "a pile of rubble and ashes" as anarchists in every major city in the country will ultimately be "rioting and destroying each city."
According to the FBI, the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by an undercover federal employee. The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement according to agents. The explosives that the defendants allegedly purchased and attempted to use were said to be inoperable and posed no threat to the public.
Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice maintains that despite the suspects' mention of this month's NATO conference, "there was no evidence developed of a planned or credible threat to the approaching summit or the City of Chicago." Special Agent Rice adds that the FBI "continues to work closely with the U.S. Secret Service and the Chicago Police Department to insure a safe and secure summit."
According to authorities in Cleveland, the public there was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by an undercover federal employee. The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement according to agents. The explosives that the defendants allegedly purchased and attempted to use were said to be inoperable and posed no threat to the public.
The self-styled anarchists also plotted to topple bank signs atop downtown Cleveland skyscrapers, using smoke grenades to divert law enforcement according to the federal complaint. They also allegedly discussed attacks on various government buildings, law enforcement headquarters and U.S. Federal Reserve facilities in the Midwest. They learned how to concoct the most potent weaponry from the Anarchist's Cookbook which is widely available.
A criminal complaint was filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Cleveland and the defendants were scheduled to make a court appearance there.
"The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot," said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach. "The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions."
"The safety of the citizens of the Northern District of Ohio is and continues to be our primary focus. The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Anthony.