Five arrested in attempt to blow up bridge in Ohio
CLEVELAND - Five men, at least three of them anarchists, plotted to blow up a bridge near Cleveland and were nabbed because they were working with a man who was actually an FBI informant, law enforcement officials said Tuesday in announcing the men's arrests.
The target of the plot was a bridge that carries a state highway over part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the Brecksville area, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland, the FBI said.
The men planted what they believed to be explosives at the base of the bridge, armed them, went to a remote spot and "entered the codes that they thought would blow up the bridge with innocent people traveling over it," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said. There actually was no danger to the public because the explosives were inert and had been sold to the men by an undercover FBI employee, officials said.
Authorities said three of the men were arrested Monday and are self-described anarchists, not tied to international terrorism. Occupy Cleveland media coordinator Jacob Wagner said at least some of the suspects had attended the group's events but that they weren't affiliated with or representing the group.
All of the suspects, ranging in age from 20 to 35, were expected to appear in federal court Tuesday afternoon. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys.
The FBI said three were arrested on charges of conspiracy and trying to use explosives to damage property affecting interstate commerce. They were identified as Brandon L. Baxter, 20; Douglas L. Wright, 26; and Anthony Hayne, 35. Baxter is from Lakewood, Ohio, and Wright said he was from the Bloomington, Ind., area, according to an FBI affidavit. Hayne's hometown wasn't provided.
The other two men were being charged Tuesday.
The affidavit filed in court indicated that federal authorities got help from a paid confidential source who had previous robbery and other convictions and was on probation for passing bad checks. It said the informant began making contact with the suspects in October and had recorded conversations with them over the past three months.
Baxter, Wright and Hayne considered different plots over time, including distracting law enforcement with smoke grenades while trying to bring down financial institution signs in downtown Cleveland.
The men also discussed other potential targets, including a law enforcement center, oil wells, a cargo ship or the opening of a new downtown casino, according to the affidavit. The document also alleges that one suspect talked about being part of group planning to cause trouble during an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.
The group finally settled on blowing up the bridge, federal authorities alleged.
"The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views," Special Agent Stephen D. Anthony, who oversees the FBI's Cleveland division, said in a statement. "The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international."
Some Occupy Cleveland members know the suspects, but the protest group had no knowledge of the alleged plan and would denounce any such violence, Wagner said.
"Occupy Cleveland has, from the very start, espoused peaceful, nonviolent, direct action," Wagner said. "These alleged actions taken by these people were completely autonomous." He said the group was gathering more information and isn't commenting further.
The announcement of the arrests came as Occupy demonstrators joined Tuesday protests marking International Workers Day, or May Day.
Franko reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press writer Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report.