Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Man arrested in plan to bomb Oklahoma bank

Published:Tuesday | August 15, 2017 | 8:00 AM
Jerry Drake Varnell

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP):

A 23-year-old man who was "out for blood" when he attempted to detonate what he believed was an explosives-laden van outside an Oklahoma bank in a plot similar to the deadly 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building is expected to be formally charged yesterday, authorities said.

Federal officials said Jerry Drake Varnell of Sayre, Oklahoma, was arrested early on Saturday in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb in an alley adjacent to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City. Varnell was scheduled to appear in federal court later on Monday on a charge of attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce. Court records do not indicate whether Varnell is represented by an attorney.

A federal complaint filed on Sunday says that a confidential informant told the FBI in December that Varnell wanted to blow up a building and "that Varnell was upset with the government and was seeking retaliation".

Officials said Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, DC, with a device similar to one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

In a series of text messages with the FBI's informant, Varnell "claimed to have a bunker for when the world (or United States) collapsed" and indicated that he was trying to build a team, the complaint states.

"I'm out for blood," the complaint quotes Varnell's texts. "When militias start getting formed, I'm going after government officials when I have a team."

But an undercover FBI agent posed as someone who could help Varnell build a bomb, and the device used was actually inert, authorities said. Varnell's actions were monitored closely for months as the plot developed.

"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.