Three members of a militia group known as “the Crusaders” were sentenced Friday to a total of 81 years in prison for plotting to bomb Somali and Muslim communities in Kansas.
The group’s ringleader, Patrick Eugene Stein, of Dodge City, Curtis Wayne Allen and Gavin Wayne Wright, both of Liberal, were sentenced to 30, 25 and 26 years behind bars, respectively.
The trio plotted throughout 2016 to kill Somalis and Muslims living in Garden City, Kansas, planning to commit mass murder and start a war against Muslims.
The group even went so far as to conduct surveillance on an apartment complex and pick out various targets around the town of 26,500 people, which is home to a Tyson Fresh Meats packing plant that employs resettled Somalis and Muslims from other countries.
Many of the 250 refugees who resettled in Garden City between 2015 and 2018 work for Tyson and other agricultural producers. They wanted to work hard, provide a good life for their children and open opportunities for family, said Debi Wheeler, the roving director for U.S. Programs with the International Rescue Committee, which helps resettle refugees fleeing countries at war and people who face torture or execution in their native country.
“These are some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” Wheeler said. “They come here to become U.S. citizens. They’re an amazing group.”
Allen, Stein and Wright referred to the African immigrant population as “cockroaches” and worked on building a bomb at Wright’s business.
A jury convicted the three men in April 2018 of plotting to bomb a mosque and an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants. They planned the attack for the day following the 2016 presidential election, which saw Donald Trump win after he waged a campaign that featured anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Prosecutors identified the men as being tied to the antigovernment Three Percent movement, whose members pledge to protest and provide armed resistance to what it sees as a move to strip constitutional rights, including gun rights, from citizens.
And, prosecutors said, the Crusaders were inspired by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people and took down the Murrah Federal Building with a truck bomb in 1995.
While the Crusaders planned to kill the immigrants, the FBI listened in and watched, using a confidential informant and recording devices to document the plot.
Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen openly hated Muslims.
Stein studded his Facebook page with angry diatribes about what is wrong with America as well as memes about hurting and killing Muslims.
“Anyone want to help start a new sport? Jumping D-9 Dozers over Mosques,” Stein posted over a picture of a large bulldozer on July 17, 2016.
“I think this could be the next worldwide sporting event that takes everyone by storm!!” Stein wrote. “PPV, Movies on demand, Netflix, not to mention Mosque side seats!!”
Allen posted a debunked story about Muslims killing Christians on May 5, 2016, calling it “Sick, but worth a wake up call to all Americans!!”
The story originated with Theodore Shoebat, a far-right activist who has called for Muslims, homosexuals, Hillary Clinton, witches and wizards to be killed.
The posting by Allen and comments by Stein and Wright mirrored talking points from the far-right and even a few from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign: claiming that President Barack Obama wasn’t a U.S. citizen, stoking the fear that Muslims were looking to impose Sharia law in the U.S., claiming that the U.S. should ban immigration from Muslim countries and advocating killing those who aid immigrants.
And the comments by Stein and Allen were made amid an anti-Muslim climate sweeping through the Republican Party during the 2016 election.
Defense attorneys attempted to use the anti-Muslim rhetoric and climate at trial, saying it normalized a fear of Muslims in America.
Stein, identified by the FBI as a leader of the Crusaders, had even been known to single out random people on the street for racial insults.
During one surveillance trip around Garden City, Stein, armed with a pistol, an assault rifle and night vision scope, spotted Somali women dressed in traditional garb and yelled, “f------ r------ b------.”
Despite Garden City being a small town, the refugee community had little or no contact with any of the Crusaders before the plot came to light, save hearing Stein yelling.
“People didn’t want this to happen,” Wheeler said of the militia plot. “They wanted the refugee community to feel safe and secure. This is their home now.”
‘I think we can get it done’
The Crusaders were organized. Their goals were thought out and documented in a manifesto. They hoped to inspire like-minded extremists to join their cause.
Members of the group, who were being secretly recorded by the FBI, discussed using rape as a weapon, arson, execution-style killings and shooting their enemies with arrows dipped in pig’s blood.
The reference to pig’s blood echoed a debunked story pushed by Trump on the campaign trail and again in August 2017. After a deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain, Trump told the tale that Gen. John Pershing executed Muslim insurgents in the Philippines in 1901 and 1913 with bullets dipped in pig’s blood.
Historians have debunked the story, but it lives on in far-right circles.
The Crusaders weren’t thinking small, either. The trio broke off from a larger militia to form a splinter cell and eventually focused on procuring explosives to carry out their attack.
The Crusaders became synonymous with the Kansas Security Force III% sometime in 2015. The larger group is part of a nationwide network of organizations, with Kansas and Georgia reporting to a former Marine named Chris Hill, an anti-Muslim activist known to hold armed protests.
Throughout 2016, members of the Crusaders talked about attacking an African American community center, mosques and apartments where Somali immigrants lived in Garden City.
The group settled on an apartment complex that was home to multiple Somali families and a mosque and even conducted surveillance on it in an attempt to determine what residents were doing and when they were likely to be at home and at prayer in the mosque with the aim of increasing the body count in any attack. The group also marked them on a Google map with the label “cockroaches.”
“Basically this whole f------ complex,” Stein said in a recorded conversation.
“Yeah, it’s kind of a cluster,” a confidential informant replied.
“This whole complex. And then this whole motherf----- right here,” Stein said.
“Oh, okay. And then …” the informant said.
“Sand n-----s,” Wright said.
“Yeah, right here …” the informant replied.
“Cockroaches,” Stein said.
FBI Agent Chad B. Moore noted in a criminal complaint that Stein discussed the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and the type of bomb used there.
“He was looking for any more explosives or things he could use to blow things up,” Moore wrote.
McVeigh, who was executed in June 2001, has become an inspiration and hero to some on the far right. His name has been invoked in a half-dozen killings and standoffs between extremists and the government.
Stein told others he wanted “a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherf-----.”
“Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the f------ coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up … I think we can get it done,” Stein said in June 2016 to other members. “But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”
By August 2016, the men identified an apartment complex and planned to place four car bombs around the property.
Then, they talked of acquiring bomb-making ingredients, including aluminum powder and ammonium nitrate and detonators. The explosive could be tested at G&G Home Center in Liberal, Kansas.
The plot falls apart
The FBI had been monitoring the Crusaders for ten months in 2016, using electronics and a human source planted in the organization.
When the plot moved from talk to bomb making, the FBI turned to an undercover agent to meet with Stein to discuss and set up the purchase of what were billed as the chemicals needed to make the explosive.
The day before, on Oct. 11, 2016, Liberal police arrested Allen after his then-girlfriend reported Allen hit her during an argument over money.
The woman then told detectives about chemicals and weapons in Allen’s apartment. A subsequent search turned up a Sharps .22 caliber handgun, a Glock 19 handgun, chemicals and a possible detonator at Allen’s home and G&G Home Center.
They also found cans of ammunition and 13 boxes of ammunition during the search.
“LPD officers estimated that they found and seized close to a metric ton (2,205 pounds) of ammunition from Allen’s residence,” Moore wrote.
The three men were arrested later that day, putting an end to their plot.
In 2016 and 2017, there were 129 terrorist incidents in the United States, accounting for 163 deaths and 1,071 injuries, according to National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, a research center at the University of Maryland.
The Maryland group concluded that “almost two-thirds of terror attacks in the (United States) last year were tied to racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, antisemitic, fascist, anti-government, or xenophobic motivations.”
The group found 65 terror attacks in the United States in 2017, up from six in 2006.
After the Garden City plot came to light, the community held a vigil near the mosque to show support for the refugee community.
“People just showed up,” Wheeler said. “It was an amazing event in this small community.”