Five people were arrested in a federal sting operation in which FBI agents provided inoperable explosives to suspects allegedly intending to bomb an Ohio bridge, the Justice Department said.
Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, described as self-proclaimed anarchists in a Justice Department statement, were arrested yesterday on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials. Charges are pending against Connor Stevens, 20, and Joshua Stafford, 23, who were also arrested, the department said. The men are scheduled to appear today in federal court in Cleveland.
“The safety of the citizens of the Northern District is and continues to be our primary focus,” Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland division, said in the statement. “The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views.”
Wright, Baxter and Hayne initially considered using smoke grenades in a plot to topple financial institution signs atop high-rise building in downtown Cleveland, prosecutors said in the statement, citing a criminal complaint filed today.
The plan evolved into one requiring the use of C-4 explosives to be placed under a bridge that crosses from Brecksville, Ohio, to Sagamore Hills, Ohio, over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the complaint. The explosives were to be remotely detonated, prosecutors said.
The fake explosives were controlled by an undercover FBI agent and the public was never in danger, prosecutors said.
The US government has increased its use of alternative strategies, including stings and informants, since Sept. 11, 2001. Undercover informants played a key role in alleged plots to bomb New York synagogues, detonate a bomb near Chicago’s Wrigley Field, attack a federal courthouse in Illinois and blow up a Dallas skyscraper.