OKLAHOMA CITY – Authorities say an Oklahoma man hated the federal government and wanted to create a revolution by blowing up a building in downtown Oklahoma City.
According to a criminal complaint, the FBI arrested 23-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.
An undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could help him with the bombing.
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.”
Now, that group is speaking out about Varnell, saying he was briefly one of its members but is no longer part of the organization.
III% United Patriots spokesman Dylan Hunter says Varnell’s claim to adhering to III% aims “are blatantly false” as the group does not condone acts of terrorism. He said Varnell had signed up to be a member less than a year ago but was never active and has been removed from the Oklahoma and national membership rolls.
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.
Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.