Douglas L. Wright, 26, originally from Bloomington, Ind., sports a striking black Mohawk haircut.
He boasts a broken nose and missing teeth from past riots. He says if he were to go to jail, he wouldn’t get out for a while. He often uses the alias “Cyco.”
Twenty-year-old Brandon L. Baxter, of Lakewood, was active in last year’s Occupy Cleveland movement. His nickname is “Skabby.”
Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, also is involved in Occupy Cleveland. Reports say he is a 1996 graduate of Cleveland’s John Marshall High School.
The three men are “self-proclaimed anarchists” who authorities say planned to use explosives to blow up the 1,133-foot-long state Route 82 bridge between Summit and Cuyahoga counties in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park as part of a May Day protest.
They were arrested late Monday at the base of the bridge after they planted what they believed to be real bombs that soon would be set off via cell-phone signals.
The men earlier had discussed blowing up the new Cleveland casino, hospitals, ships, trains, the Cleveland Justice Center and even the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, according to an FBI affidavit.
They also discussed planting bombs at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the G-8 Conference in Chicago. Another possible target was a purported Ku Klux Klan headquarters in either Lodi or Wooster.
They talked about using a community festival in Cleveland to hide the bombing attack. A suicide attack was considered, but they opted for the bridge bombing so they could stay alive to fight again.
The public in Northeast Ohio was never at risk, because the explosive devices for which they paid $400 were inert and controlled by an undercover FBI employee, authorities said Tuesday in announcing the arrests.
The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement, and the inoperable explosives posed no threat to the public, officials said.
Their group had been infiltrated for months by the FBI, according to the 21-page affidavit filed by the FBI that outlines the strange plot.
The arrests were made by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and were announced by Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
The three appeared Tuesday afternoon before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. They are charged with conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce.
Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, on identical charges.
All five had initial appearances in Cleveland federal court Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported, and were ordered jailed without bond pending a hearing Monday.
“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” Dettelbach said in a statement. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”
Added Anthony of the FBI: “The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views.”
The five have no apparent ties to international terrorists, officials said.
The defendants all lived in the Cleveland area, although officials were unable to provide specific hometowns, said spokesman Mike Tobin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Changing plans, targets
The five men formed a small group and considered a series of evolving plots with changing targets over several months.
The plot later developed the utilization of explosive materials. The defendants conspired to obtain C4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices to be placed and remotely detonated, the complaint says.
They scouted tunnels under Cleveland as a possible target.
They discussed numerous bridges in the Cleveland area over several months before settling on the state Route 82 bridge between Sagamore Hills Township and Brecksville.
The initial plot involved the use of smoke grenades on the Veterans Memorial Bridge (Detroit-Carnegie Bridge) in Cleveland to distract law enforcement in order for the conspirators to topple financial institution signs atop high-rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, according to the federal complaint.
Wright told the group that the bank signs were important because they wanted “to make sure everyone knows that the action was against corporate America and the financial system and not just some random acts.”
He told the informant he lamented the fact he couldn’t find enough anarchists in Cleveland.
He was unhappy with leadership in Occupy Cleveland and said his group needed to find recruits in homeless shelters and neighborhoods on Cleveland’s East Side.
Wright, who appears to be the ringleader, boasted of how, in other cities, anarchists would form a large crowd and the outer ring would riot and cause damage. When the police arrived, the outer ring merged into the center and the people in the center moved to the outside. It was a technique called a “black block” that was designed to confuse police.
But there weren’t enough people in Cleveland to conduct that type of riot, Wright reportedly said.
According to the federal affidavit, the FBI relied, in part, of what is called “the confidential human source” who had been working for the FBI since July 20.
The FBI also relied on an undercover employee who has worked for the agency for 15 years, including 10 years undercover. That confidential source made contact with the anarchist group in October.
The source has one conviction for possession of cocaine in 1990, one conviction for robbery in 1991 and four convictions for passing bad checks between 1991 and 2011. That source is currently on probation in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties for passing bad checks.
The FBI says it paid the source $5,750 for services and $550 for expenses since July. No payments have been made since the probation began.
“During the reporting period, the [confidential human source] has made audio and video recordings and provided information and intelligence that have led to the opening of several additional investigations,” the affidavit says.
According to the affidavit, Wright stood up for the source when others in his group were suspicious late last year.
At one point, Wright and the source looked up how to make smoke bombs in the book The Anarchist Cookbook.
He told the source he would not own a gun because of a prior felony conviction and didn’t want to risk a weapons charge. Details of that conviction were unclear.
He talked about buying a retractable baton as a weapon of choice.
The group was also very concerned about its activities being tracked online or through financial transactions. Members took steps to be evasive.
During the group’s discussions, Baxter and Wright expressed concerns that people might be injured in a bridge bombing.
They discussed posing as a work crew and closing the bridge before detonating a bomb or blowing up the bridge at night. They didn’t want to be seen as terrorists.
They even discussed selling marijuana to raise the money needed to buy weapons and bombs from a source that turned out to the FBI.
The FBI staffer sold the group the C4 explosives, five ballistic vests, 10 cans of tear gas and five Israeli gas marks. Wright agreed to pay $450 on delivery and $450 within a month or he could work off the remaining debt.
The group scouted the state Route 82 bridge at night April 20.
The bridge has one lane in each direction and stands 150 feet above the Cuyahoga River and above the tracks of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The bridge carries an average of 13,610 vehicles per day, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
According to the affidavit, no one in the group wanted to climb the bridge to place the explosives.
Some Occupy Cleveland members know the suspects, but the protest group had no knowledge of the alleged plan and would denounce any such violence, officials said.
“Occupy Cleveland has, from the very start, espoused peaceful, nonviolent, direct action,” said spokesman Jacob Wagner said. “These alleged actions taken by these people were completely autonomous.”
The National Park Service was pleased at the FBI’s handling of the matter, park spokeswoman Mary Pat Doorley said.
“There was no threat to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. No threat to the public. No visitors were ever at risk. It was well handled by the FBI,” she said.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.