The 23-year-old Sayre, Oklahoma, man was arrested early Saturday morning in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb in downtown Oklahoma City.
Jerry Drake Varnell had plans to set off what he believed to be a stolen van filled with explosives outside BancFirst in Oklahoma City, a federal complaint filed Sunday states.
His intention was ” to replicate the Oklahoma City bomb,” FBI agent Raul Bujanda said at a press conference Monday.
The complaint states that Varnell, of Sayre, Okla., was unhappy with the U.S. government and wanted to carry out an attack at a building.
KOCO-TV reports that he initially wanted to attack the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., to replicate the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people, law enforcement officials said.
Timothy McVeigh was convicted and executed in 2001 for his role in the carnage.
Jerry Drake Varnell was arrested for allegedly trying to set off explosives outside BancFirst [photo], in Oklahoma City
Varnell had been communicating with an undercover FBI agent who pretended to go along with his scheme, according to authorities.
In a text message with an FBI informant, Varnell said he was “out for blood.”
The arrest is the culmination of a long-term domestic terrorism investigation involving an undercover operation, during which Varnell had been monitored closely for months as the alleged bomb plot developed, authorities said. The device was actually inert, and the public was not in danger.
The FBI was tracking down his moves for months. He met with the undercover agent in June over discussions about obtaining explosives.
He told the agent he wanted to make a statement using bombs, according to the complaint.
Varnell assembled the explosive, loaded it into the van, and prepared a statement to be posted on social media after the attack expressing his disapproval of the government, the complaint says.
Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, is escorted from the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Okla., April 1995. The explosion killed 168 people., for which he faced the death penalty
He then drove from El Reno to BancFirst in Oklahoma City, and dialed a number on a cell phone he thought would detonate the explosive.
Law enforcement officials arrested the 23-year-old shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.
He’s been charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce. If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment