Anti-government extremist arrested for trying to bomb bank in Oklahoma City

A 23-year-old man was arrested Saturday morning for allegedly trying to blow up a bank in downtown Oklahoma City, according to an announcement by Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
By Tyler Henderson | Aug 17, 2017
A 23-year-old man was arrested Saturday morning for allegedly trying to blow up a bank in downtown Oklahoma City, according to an announcement by Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Jerry Drake Varnell of Sayre, Oklahoma, was taken into custody at about 1:00 a.m. on August 12 after he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb placed in a van he had parked next to the bank, the criminal complaint said, according to a Justice Department statement.

The complaint also says that Varnell, who was an admirer of Timothy McVeigh, first wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C. in imitation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because he was angry at the federal government.

At some point, Varnell's plot came to the attention of law enforcement and an undercover FBI agent posed as someone who could help further his plans. The FBI has been investigating Varnell since last December, the complaint said.

"I'm out for blood," wrote Varnell to a confidential criminal informant who was working with the FBI, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, saying also that he wanted to "somehow cripple the government."

According to the Justice Department, Varnell took a series of actions to further his plot.

"He identified BancFirst as the target, prepared a statement to be posted on social media after the explosion, helped assemble the device, helped load it onto what he believed was a stolen van, drove the van by himself from El Reno to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City, and dialed a number on a cellular telephone that he believed would trigger the explosion," the Justice Department statement said.

The device Varnell thought was a bomb actually was inert, the FBI noted, and the public was never in peril.

"There was never a concern that our community's safety or security was at risk during this investigation," said Kathryn Peterson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oklahoma. "I can assure the public, without hesitation, that we had Varnell's actions monitored every step of the way."

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