Authorities on Thursday revealed an alleged plot by an armed militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap embattled Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who faced heavy criticism from such groups in recent months over her coronavirus pandemic orders.
Six men — Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta — face federal charges connected with a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor and spark a civil war.
Fox and Croft had discussed overthrowing state governments, believing they violate the Constitution, according to an affidavit. Group members also tried to identify the addresses of law enforcement officials so they could be targeted as well, prosecutors said.
Separately, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said seven suspects face state charges under Michigan’s anti-terrorism act following search warrants executed Wednesday.
In a Thursday arraignment, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend called defendants Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico “founding members” of the group, the Daily Beast reported.
He said Morrison was considered a “commander” within the Watchmen, a group he described as “committed to violence” against the government and politicians.
The group doesn’t have much of an online presence and is not listed among the anti-government groups followed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist and hate groups.
A website for the Watchmen was not functioning as of Thursday afternoon. However, the New York Post reported the group says: “A well-armed citizenry is the best form of Homeland Security and can better deter crime, invasion, terrorism, and tyranny.
“Everyone is welcome, regardless of race, creed, color, religion or political affiliation, provided you do not wish to bring harm to our country or people,” it added.
Militias have gained notoriety in recent months as protests against government restrictions to combat the coronavirus saw armed members dressed in tactical gear standing outside and inside public buildings, raising concerns from some lawmakers who felt threatened.
In May, armed militiamen gathered outside Michigan’s Capitol to rally against Whitmer’s pandemic executive orders. A month earlier, armed demonstrators tried to get on the Capitol floor before being stopped by security.
Militia members have also been seen at more recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Some have claimed they were protecting businesses from rioters.
Many militia groups have sought to use the nationwide unrest as a recruiting tool and to advance their agendas, Nessel said during a Thursday news conference in Lansing.
On a property in Munith, Michigan, a rural area 75 miles east of Detroit, Morrison allegedly used the area for militia training, Townsend said, according to the Daily Beast.
Several neighbors told the news outlet they heard shooting coming from the blighted property and suspected the people who visited were part of a militia because of high caliber rounds they fired off on weekends.
“They were mean,” one neighbor told the outlet. “You knew they were involved with the militia. That was obvious from the constant shooting.”
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.