SAYRE, Okla. - A hatred of the federal government and calls for a revolution are just some of the alleged motives behind an Oklahoma man's attempted plot to blow up a downtown Oklahoma City building, patterned after the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, of Sayre, Okla. was arrested early Saturday morning after a van, laden with 1,000 pounds of what he believed to be ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, failed to detonate outside the BancFirst National Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
"He wanted to make the biggest impact wherever he was going to place his bomb. And, in his mind, this would have been the biggest impact in Oklahoma," said Raul Bujanda, the assistant special agent in charge for Oklahoma City.
Investigators were tipped off in December 2016 by a confidential source about Varnell's aspirations to bomb the Eccles Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., "in a manner similar to the Oklahoma City Bombing", court records show.
According to the 17 page criminal complaint filed Sunday in federal court, Varnell was upset with the government and wanted retaliation.
Messages between the source - who was serving a prison sentence for a probation violation - and Varnell, Varnell wrote "I'm out for blood. When militias start getting formed I'm going after government officials when I have a team."
When the two discussed using explosives as part of Varnell's plan, the court documents say Varnell wrote to the source, "I think I'm going to go with what the okc (sic) bomber used. Diesel and anhydrous ammonia," referring to the domestic terrorism plot carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
Varnell lives with his mother and step-father in Sayre, Oklahoma; a city of about 4,300 people a two-hour drive west from Oklahoma City on I-40. NewsChannel 4 spoke with Varnell's step-father Monday afternoon who declined to talk about the allegations.
When Varnel told the source he wanted to target the BancFirst building instead of the Eccles Federal Reserve Building, Varnell said "Well I don't wanna (sic) kill a bunch of people," according to the criminal complaint.
Over the course of about seven months, the source and an explosives expert called "The Professor" met and talked with Varnell in Sayre and nearby Elk City about his plans. "The Professor" was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Court documents say Varnell admitted to holding a "III% ideology," an anti-government movement, and wanting to start a revolution, saying that "something needs to be done."
The complaint details specific, multiple instances when the undercover agent questioned Varnell's intention and willingness to proceed with the bombing and likelihood that it would result in the loss of life.
"...you got to break a couple eggs to make an omelet...that's why people don't do this s--t because, you know, you got to be able to overcome that little reality there," court documents say Varnell told the undercover agent after acknowledging that one or more people could be killed, adding that he wanted to do something that would, "somehow cripple the government. Something that sends a message that says, 'You are a target.'"
At one point, the complaint says Varnell wanted to ensure credit for the bombing couldn't be claimed by someone else or other group "such as ISIS." About three days before the attack, Varnell sent the confidential source a message to be posted on Facebook after the bombing, saying, "What happened in Oklahoma city (sic) was not an attack on America, it was retaliation."
The undercover agent, "The Professor" and Varnell met in the afternoon on August 11 to build the bomb, scout the target and rehearse the plan. Court documents say Varnell "actively participated" in assembling what he believed to be a functioning 1,000 lb. ammonium nitrate and fuel oil "Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device" or VBIED bomb. Built in a storage unit in El Reno and loaded into a van, all of the materials were provided by the undercover agent and inert.
Court documents say after a final rehearsal of the route, Varnell drove the van by himself to the alley and loading dock of the BancFirst building.
"The target himself, Mr. Varnell, would call the bomb through a triggering device in a cell phone that was affixed to the bomb," said Bujanda. He would call the phone and it would ring, and that's what would detonate the bomb."
Instead, it rang another phone that was in the hands of law enforcement.