Man accused of plotting to bomb Oklahoma City building facing additional charge

OKLAHOMA CITY – The man accused of plotting to bomb a downtown Oklahoma City bank is now facing an additional charge.

According to a criminal complaint, the FBI arrested 24-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell on Aug. 12 after he allegedly attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van in an alley next to BancFirst 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.

However, he soon changed his mind and decided to target a building in downtown Oklahoma City.

BancFirst located in downtown Oklahoma City

An undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could help him with the bombing.

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, law enforcement officers swooped in and took Varnell into custody.

Drake Varnell, Oklahoma Department of Corrections 2015

Following Varnell’s arrest, questions were raised about his mental health.

Varnell’s parents told News 4 shortly after their son’s arrest that he is a “paranoid schizophrenic” and is susceptible to ideas that others reject. However, a judge ruled that Varnell is competent to stand trial.

Last year, a federal grand jury charged Varnell with attempting to use an explosive device to damage and destroy BancFirst’s corporate offices. If convicted of that charge, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Varnell, adding another charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

If convicted of the new charge, he would face a maximum sentence of life in prison.