Three men have been arrested and charged with planning to use a weapon of mass destruction in a terrorist attack on a mosque and housing complex in a western Kansas town where Somali immigrants live and worship, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The men were part of a militia group whose members called themselves “The Crusaders,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said at a news conference. They had conspired to detonate a bomb at an apartment complex in Garden City, Kan., which houses about 120 people, many of whom are Muslim.
The defendants had allegedly conducted surveillance of the housing complex, stockpiled firearms and bomb-making materials and had even written a manifesto that was to be published in conjunction with the attack, which was scheduled for Nov. 9, the day after the presidential election.
“One of [the defendants] said the bombing would ‘wake people up,’ ” Beall said.
The arrests come after an eight-month investigation of the three men, identified as Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49, and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47. During that time, investigators say, the men considered a number of targets, including churches and public officials who supported Somali immigrants, as well as landlords who rented to Somalis.
They allegedly settled on the apartment complex. Some local people call the complex “Somali Town,” says Garden Valley Church pastor Steve Ensz.
Ensz’s church is about a mile from the apartment complex and helps refugees acclimate to life in western Kansas. He tells NPR he was “saddened, but not surprised” to hear the news and says that most people in Garden City are “good moral people, welcoming to refugees.”
When told that the defendants allegedly wanted to “wake people up,” Ensz said, “They’re the ones that need to be woken up.”
If convicted, the three men would face up to life in federal prison.
NPR intern Luke Vander Ploeg contributed to this story.