Undercover officers infiltrated the group of NATO summit protesters, watching them as they allegedly made Molotov cocktails, which are bottles filled with flammable liquid. Sources say the suspects had planned to attack at least four police stations with the firebombs.
"It's a very, very dangerous weapon that these guys were trying to make," said 'ABC7 security expert Jody Weis, former Chicago police superintendent. "Depending how they make it, it can actually be like a jelly gasoline mixed with that so that can actually be like napalm."
"When someone is in possession of Molotov cocktails, that makes it pretty imminent," said current CPD superintendent Garry McCarthy.
According to court records, two undercover operatives infiltrated the Bridgeport group and police found, "...weapons, four completed Molotov cocktails...plans for...pipe bombs, Chicago area map, computer equipment, recording devices, video cameras, cell phones and an assault vest."
"They are not anarchists, they don't belong to a black bloc organization. They are involved with non violent protests," Michael Deutsch, National Lawyers Guild.
On Wednesday, members of the Chicago Police Department's Organized Crime Division raided the Bridgeport apartment where the protesters were staying, seizing the firebombs and arresting nine people, sources said.
Subsequent interviews yielded information on the three suspects as well as physical evidence authorities say was in process of being made when the men were arrested.
Police seized a mortar gun, swords, a cross-bow, throwing star, ninja knives and knives with brass-knuckle handles.
Contrary to what was said the last few days by attorneys representing the suspects, police and prosecutors say they did have a search warrant and arrest warrants at the time they raided the Bridgeport home Wednesday night.
Early Saturday, the three protesters were charged with three felony counts: possession of an explosive or incendiary device, conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support to terrorism, according to Harrison District Police Lt. Kenneth Stoppa. They face the first state terrorism charges ever lodged in Illinois.
The three charged men were identified by police and their attorneys as Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla.
Authorities say the three came to Chicago last month from Florida to take part in May Day protests, including a demonstration by Black Bloc anarchists in front of Chicago's Bank of America.
"Several weeks ago we began working with the Chicago Police Department to investigate information about individuals traveling to or already present in Chicago who were conspiring to commit terrorist acts of violence or destruction against targets during protest against the NATO summit," said Cook Co. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
"We believe it is a setup, an entrapment to the highest degree, and it is sensationalism by the police and the state to discredit the protesters," said Michael Deutsch, National Lawyers Guild.
Chase's Facebook page displays a mugshot of himself from a prior arrest and a personal logo complete with assault rifles. Chase has become a known figure in the occupy movement. In Miami, he even did an interview about outside agitators.
"There was criminal elements that like to come in and infiltrate our camps, which is something that happens at every Occupy camp around the country," he said in February.
Chase is a well-known figure in the Occupy Miami movement. Miami TV recently showed him living in a slum where Occupy members had moved after being dislodged by police and where he was arrested this year on two occasions for loitering and prowling and for petty theft.
Betterly, originally from Massachusetts, was also arrested in Florida in 2006 for battery and trespass.
Alvarez singled out the youngest suspect, Church.
"As they planned how to use Molotov cocktails, Church at one point asked others if they had ever seen a cop on fire, and I quote, "As he discussed throwing a Molotov cocktail into the 9th District police station," she said.
"This plot very clearly does not represent protest behavior. This is criminal behavior. And this represents fulfillment of our obligation," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
Saturday afternoon, a judge set bail at $1.5 million for each of the three men accused. A small group of protesters was also in court at the time three suspects were making their initial bond appearances.
The defense attorneys in court Saturday said all of this was the product of undercover police officers and the Chicago Police Department "attracting and provoking the acts" the men are charged with. They say the police brought the elements of the alleged bombs, and the men were provoked into making them at the hands of police.
Federal charges against the three men are also possible, sources said.