Three Gaston County Men Arrested for Conspiracy to Violate Laws Governing Firearms, Explosive Devices, and Related Charges
CHARLOTTE, NC—Walter Eugene Litteral, 50, Christopher James Barker, 41, of Gastonia, and Christopher Todd Campbell, 30, of Mt. Holly, N.C., were arrested on Saturday, August 1, 2015, for conspiring to violate federal laws governing firearms and explosive devices and related charges, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina. Criminal complaints against the men were filed in late July 2015 and remained sealed until today.
Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte Division joins Acting U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.
According to allegations contained in the affidavits filed with the criminal complaints:
Beginning on or about June 18, 2015, law enforcement received information that Litteral and Barker were attempting manufacture explosive or destructive devices. On or about July 22, 2015, law enforcement received information that Campbell was reconstructing live grenades from “dummy grenades” sold legally as military artifacts. Litteral, Campbell and others believed that the United States government intended to use the armed forces to impose martial law, which they planned to resist with violent force. Litterral had been purchasing numerous military equipment in preparation for the alleged attack, including ammunition for a .338 caliber rifle, handheld radios with throat microphones for communication, military issue Kevlar helmets, body armor vests and balaclavas (a form of cloth headgear designed to expose only parts of the face).
The FBI became aware that Litteral and Campbell wanted to manufacture destructive devices such as pipe bombs and grenades and possessed some of the needed components. According to the investigation, Barker provided Litteral with pipe fittings, which are needed to manufacture pipe bombs. Litteral also discussed testing the destructive devices in Shelby, N.C., with Barker present for the testing. Making reference to the explosion, court records indicate that Litteral said, “it is going to be great.”
In addition to purchasing the military supplies, Litteral also tried to purchase a firearm and ammunition for Barker. According to court records, Litteral filled out the required form with his own information, even though the gun was intended for Barker. Using his own debit card, Barker purchased ammunition and a large capacity magazine for the gun. Barker’s prior criminal felony convictions prohibit him from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition.
The three men had their initial appearances today in court and will in remain in federal custody pending their detention hearings, which have been set for Thursday, August 6, 2015.
The charge of conspiracy to violate laws governing firearms and explosive devices carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Campbell is also charged with receiving, possessing and making a firearm—which definition includes a destructive device—for which the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The charges contained in the complaint are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) of which the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department are members. In making today’s announcement, Acting U.S. Attorney Rose thanked the Belmont Police Department, the Mount Holly Police Department, Gaston County Police Department, the Gastonia Police Department, and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office for their assistance with the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney and Senior Litigation Counsel Michael E. Savage of the Western District of North Carolina.