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FBI: 5 arrested in plot to blow up Brecksville bridge

5:06 PM, May 1, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Five men remain in custody charged in what the FBI says was a failed plot to bring down the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge on State Route 82.

All five face charges of conspiracy and trying to bomb property used in interstate commerce.

The suspects were identified as Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of nearby Lakewood; Connor Stevens, 20, of suburban Berea; and Douglas L. Wright, 26; of Indianapolis. The charges carry possible penalties of more than 20 years in prison.

All have been ordered detained until a May 7 hearing.

The FBI says the five are all self-proclaimed anarchists.

The five were under close police surveillance.  The FBI says the group purchased two inoperable improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from an undercover agent.  The FBI stresses the devices were inert.

Photos: 5 arrested in Brecksville bridge plot

According to the FBI, the group allegedly placed the devices on a concrete pillar of the bridge on Monday night and armed them.  The FBI says the five then attempted to remotely detonate the devices from an area they deemed safe and which would give them an alibi.  They were arrested shortly afterward as part of the sting.

The FBI says Wright, Baxter and Hayne formed into a group and beginning in October 2011 considered a series of evolving plots over several months. 

Statement: Cleveland reaction to bomb plot arrests

An initial plot involved using smoke grenades to distract police in order for co-conspirators to topple the signs of financial institutions on high rise buildings in downtown Cleveland.  The plot later developed into the use of explosives.

The FBI says the group discussed other potential targets, including a law enforcement center, oil wells, a cargo ship or the opening of a new downtown casino, according to an affidavit. The document also alleges that one suspect talked about being part of group planning to cause trouble during an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

"The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot," said U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach. "The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions."

"The safety of the citizens of the Northern District of Ohio is and continues to be our primary focus. The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony. "The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international."

The FBI says the plot was not tied to the one year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.  It says those arrested do not have ties to international terrorism.


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