By Abby Phillip (Washington Post)
The men had a deadly plot to lure government forces into a trap, federal officials say, and were amassing a stockpile fit for war.
There were Kevlar helmets and body armor, pipe bombs and handmade grenades, large amounts of gunpowder and dozens of rounds of ammunition for a military-grade sniper rifle.
Federal officials say three North Carolina men — Walter Eugene Litteral, 50; Christopher James Barker, 41; and Christopher Todd Campbell, 30 — spent months compiling their cache, much of it purchased through a military surplus store owner who became so concerned about the plot that the person became the FBI’s informant.
The men were arrested Saturday and charged with conspiracy and amassing weaponry allegedly to combat what they believe is the government’s plan to impose martial law through (among other things) the multistate military exercise known as Jade Helm.
In January, the informant relocated the military surplus store to Gaston County, N.C. — just a few doors down from where Campbell operated a tattoo parlor. Almost immediately, Campbell told the informant of his “anti-government” views, according to federal court documents.
A month later, Campbell introduced the informant to Litteral. The two men told the informant that they believed “that the federal government intended to use the armed forces to impose martial law in the United States, which they and others would resist with violent force,” the court documents said.
Specifically, they told the informant that the Jade Helm exercises planned in five states were a cover for the government’s plot to impose martial law. The exercises were scheduled to be conducted from July 15 to Sept. 15, and Litteral made it clear that he needed the military-grade items no later than July 15.
Operation Jade Helm 15, a training exercise for Army Special Operations Forces, has spawned consternation and anti-government conspiracy theories. The exercises are taking place in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, according to the Army.
By April, months before the training operation was scheduled, the purchases from the military surplus store began — all of them paid for in cash, according to court documents. There were plans, the documents allege, to make pipe bombs, explosive tennis balls covered in nails and coffee cans filled with ball bearings that would be detonated with a shot from a sniper rifle.
And by mid-June, those plans were beginning to crystallize.
According to the documents, Litteral was heavily armed with both legally and illegally obtained weapons. If government agents came looking for him at his home, Litteral allegedly told the informant in a phone conversation, he would be ready.
“Lemme tell you something, I gonna have my f——- house rigged up; these motherf—— come try to come in my house, it’s gonna go off,” he said, according to the documents.
The documents indicated that Litteral told another person in a phone conversation: “I got a f—— .45 beside my bed. I got a .45 and a 9-mil in my truck. I’ve got a 9-mil and a .380, or a .380 in her car. Safe full of weapons. You know what? Every time I open up this damn safe, I mean I’ve got, I’ve got at least 30 weapons that I can see and some tucked all the way in the back back.”
The plan involved testing the explosives on land in Shelby, N.C. But the ambush against U.S. forces would take place on Litteral and Campbell’s a 99-acre camp in Clover, S.C.
“According to [Campbell], he and Litteral intend to booby-trap the camp and draw government’s forces into the camp and kill them,” the warrant states.
On June 30, according to documents, Campbell told the informant that he feared that the government would soon declare martial law, saying: “S— is gonna go down soon.”
In mid-July, Litteral attempted to buy a rifle for Barker, the third arrestee named in the conspiracy. Barker had been convicted of a felony and would not have been permitted to purchase a weapon.
But the purchase at the gun store was held up, first by a required three-day background check. Unbeknownst to Litteral, it was then held up even longer at the FBI’s request.
In a conversation on July 29, according to the documents, Litteral told Campbell that the delay infuriated him:
LITTERAL: “it would be good for trip but like I was telling him with the pipe bombs I’m making we need a fuse we need a fuse because these things if we put one here we’re gone.”
CAMPBELL: “yeah yeah we need to take them out in the woods and test them”
LITTERAL: “I’m only making three of them this time around. Then I wanna get get (sic) my buddy to hook me up so we have a practice round.”
CAMPBELL: “hell yeah”
LITTERAL: “things are coming around. This denial of my rifle got me really upset.”
Three days later, federal agents made a move, raiding two homes along with Campbell’s tattoo parlor and ultimately arresting all three of the men.
The men now face charges of conspiracy to violate laws governing firearms and explosive devices, which carry a prison sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine. Campbell separately faces an additional charge of receiving, possessing or making a firearm — which by definition includes a destructive device — which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years and a $10,000 fine, according to the FBI.