Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, of Sayre, Oklahoma, is accused of trying to detonate a 1,000-pound vehicle bomb in downtown Oklahoma City, an attack he wanted to claim with a Facebook message proclaiming that “the time for revolution is now,” federal authorities announced.
However, the bomb was fake, the culmination of a six-month undercover sting operation.
The plot focused on BancFirst, 101 N. Broadway, in downtown Oklahoma City, announced Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the arrest stemmed from a long-term domestic terrorism investigation. The arrest comes shortly after a separate car ramming attack by an alleged Hitler admiring Ohio man, James Alex Fields, killed a woman and injured 19 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A confidential informant had told authorities that “Varnell was upset with the government and was seeking retaliation,” authorities alleged. Varnell was in possession of firearms and desired to develop and arm a small militia, the complaint further contended.
When the informant advised Varnell that people could be killed at the “target location,” Varnell allegedly responded, “…you got to break a couple of eggs to make an omelet.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Varnell Initially Planned to Blow Up the Federal Reserve Building in D.C. Because He Was Upset With the Government, Authorities Allege & He Shared Anonymous & Project Veritas Videos
According to a criminal complaint filed in the Western District of Oklahoma on August 14, the FBI arrested Varnell at about 1 a.m. on August 12, 2017, “after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van he had parked in an alley next to BancFirst.”
The complaint alleges that Varnell “initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because he was upset with the government.”
The investigation dates to Dember 2016, when a confidential informant told the FBI that Varnell allegedly “was aspiring to bomb the Federal Reserve Building in Washington D.C. in a manner similar to the Oklahoma City bombing.” The informant, who has a criminal history, was provided monetary compensation during “his/her continued cooperation,” the complaint says.
The investigation was corroborated by physical surveillance, consensually recorded conversations, administrative subpoenas, and searches of public records, the complaint alleges.
The informant told Varnell, at the direction of the FBI, “that he/she knew of a person with access to large quantities of ammonium nitrate and experience in explosives,” the complaint says. Varnell allegedly wrote back “Well if sh*ts ready to go I’m ready to go.”
In May, the informant met with Varnell at Varnell’s home in Sayre, Oklahoma. He was with a female friend and “claimed they had been on a two-day ‘dope binge’ with weed and meth,” the complaint alleged.
In the meeting, which was recorded, the informant allegedly told Varnell that the informant “had access to anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate through a friend.” Varnell allegedly responded that he was only interested in ammonium nitrate due to its nitrogen content, which was more reactive and could be used to make a nitrogen bomb.
The informant arranged for Varnell to meet someone they were calling the “professor” to further the plot, the complaint alleged.
Although Varnell’s Facebook page has privatized most of the posts on it, he did share a Project Veritas YouTube video that was titled, “Rigging the Election – Video I: Clinton Campaign and DNC Incite Violence at Trump Rallies.” See below.
This is the video:
He also shared with an Anonymous Facebook page a Project Veritas video alleging voter fraud.
Varnell also shared this anti-government Anonymous video:
He wrote on Facebook that he was single and from Sayre, Oklahoma. The complaint alleges that he said he lived on his family’s property for free.
A former girlfriend wrote on his comment thread after the charges, “I’m no longer dating him” and “I feel sick to my stomach.” She added for good measure, “TO BE CLEAR, WE BROKE UP A FEW WEEKS AGO, I AM NO LONGER DATING HIM.” She also wrote, “We never talked about his political views, ever.”
He was part of an open group for an Oklahoma militia on Facebook. His likes page is filled with likes of musicians and movies; he’d also liked an anti-corporate page called The Other 98 Percent. Another of his likes is for a page called “P*ssed Off White Americans.” The about me section of that page reads, “We are the sons and daughters of European Heritage, and we are tired of being treated as second class citizens. LOUD, PROUD, and very PISSED OFF!” He also liked the sites “Right Wing News” and “Stop Pulling the Race Card” as well as sites on the Illuminati and militias.
A man who identified himself as Varnell’s brother wrote on Facebook, “My brother is schizophrenic and the FBI brought him the van loaded with explosives. Good job America.”
One family member has a Confederate flag on her Facebook wall.
2. Varnell Prepared a Statement for Social Media, Claimed He Was ‘Out for Blood’ & Said He Built a Bunker, Authorities Allege
An undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could assist Varnell, and ultimately disrupted the plot.
According to the complaint, Varnell “took a series of actions to advance his plot. He identified BancFirst as the target, prepared a statement to be posted on social media after the explosion, helped assemble the device, helped load it into what he believed was a stolen van, drove the van by himself from El Reno to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City, and dialed a number on a cellular telephone that he believed would trigger the explosion.”
Varnell was concerned that another group like ISIS might take responsibility for the attack, the complaint alleges. He allegedly wanted to write a Facebook message about “freedom” that would claim responsibility. The message was to say, according to the complaint:
What happened in Oklahoma City was not an attack on America, it was retaliation. Retaliation against the freedoms that have been taken away from the American people. It was a wake up call to both the government and the people. An act done to show the government what the people thinks of its actions. It is also a call to arms, to show people that there are still fighters among the American people. The time for revolution is now.
The informant told authorities about allegedly communicating with Varnell via “Textlock,” an encryption app, and provided screenshots. Varnell “claimed to have a bunker for when the world (or United States) collapsed. Varnell was in the process of outfitting the bunker with supplies. Varnell indicated he was still trying to build his ‘team,’” according to the complaint.
Varnell allegedly wrote, “I’m out for blood. When militias start getting formed I’m going after government officials when I have a team” and “I think I’m going to go with what the okc bomber used. Diesel and anhydrous ammonia,” the complaint alleged.
The informant alleged to have observed on the Varnell property a “bunker” described as a large storage container box buried on three sides that Varnell allegedly said was a “multipurpose bunker with food and supplies.” Varnell allegedly said he created a hidden room in a house concealed behind a bookcase and “claimed he would use this area to hide” and grow marijuana.
The complaint alleges that in another May meeting in the “bunker,” Varnell “talked about needing 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate for a bomb big enough for a five-story building.”
He said the device would need to be placed in a van and set with a remote timer, the complaint alleges. According to the complaint, on May 24, Varnell allegedly said he decided to target BancFirst instead of the Federal Reserve because “Well I don’t wanna kill a bunch of people.”
3. Varnell Allegedly Aligned With ‘Three Percenter’ Ideology
According to The Washington Post, “Varnell made repeated statements about the extent of his hatred of the federal government.”
The Post said he indicated a belief in the “Three Percenter” ideology, which the newspaper described as “a form of anti-government activism that pledges resistance against the United States government on the belief it has infringed on the Constitution, according to court papers. Those who subscribe to the ideology incorrectly believe that only 3 percent of the colonial population participated in the American Revolution, and they see themselves as their heirs.”
The complaint alleged that, during a meeting with the person acting as the “professor,” in a restaurant in Elk City, Oklahoma, Varnell allegedly admitted to holding 3% ideology and wanting to start the new revolution. He said he “wanted to be a part of something and was of the same mind with people who wanted to use explosives and make a statement.”
Authorities also accuse Varnell of admiring Oklahoma City federal building bomber, Timothy McVeigh, according to The Post.
In April 2017, Varnell allegedly sent Facebook private messages that said people “were too complacent and didn’t have ‘balls,’” according to the complaint.
4. The Bomb Was ‘Inert’ & the Public Was Never Really in Danger
The arrest was “the culmination of a long-term domestic terrorism investigation involving an undercover operation, during which Varnell had been monitored closely for months as the alleged bomb plot developed,” the U.S. Attorney’s press release said.
However, Varnell was tricked with a fake bomb, authorities alleged.
“The device was actually inert, and the public was not in danger,” the press release added.
“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.”
In another conversation, Varnell allegedly said, “I’m thinking we should do a couple buildings at once. Or right after another. In the span of a day.”
The fake bomb was set up in a mini storage unit in El Reno, Oklahoma, and Varnell “actively participated in building” what he thought was a 1,000 bomb, the complaint alleges. Varnell and the undercover informant conducted a “final rehearsal of the route.” On August 12, Varnell alone drove the cargo van, which he believed was stolen to Oklahoma City.
The complaint alleges that he parked the vehicle in a loading dock adjacent to the BancFirst building and had “armed the device’s time and power unit.”
He then used the informant’s “burner phone” to dial the cell phone number he believed would detonate the van. He “dialed the number at least two more times,” the complaint alleges.
5. Varnell Was Trying to Raise Money for Drug Research & Referenced the Movie ‘Fight Club’
Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce, according to the press release.
“If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Oklahoma City” on August 14, the release said.
The complaint accuses Varnell of referencing the movie Fight Club “when he discussed wanting to take down a government facility or other structures.”
Varnell had established a GoFundMe site that claimed he was doing drug research.
“I’m doing research on a drug called naringin that intensifies the effects of other drugs. It has tons of uses and applications and I need your help to do my research!” the site said.
It didn’t appear that he raised any money.