FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold's Public Remarks on the Sentencing of Jerry Drake Varnell
On behalf of the FBI, I would like to thank our law enforcement partners, the Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney’s Office, the court, and jurors in bringing Jerry Drake Varnell to justice.
Let me be clear, this was not a case of misconstrued online activity or innocent online chatter. On the evening of August 11, 2017, Jerry Drake Varnell traveled to downtown Oklahoma City seeking to harm innocent Oklahomans through the attempted destruction of one of Oklahoma City’s largest banks—actions which could have resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and millions of dollars of damage.
The FBI defines Domestic Terrorism as an act of violence that an individual commits in furtherance of ideologies that are domestically influenced, such as political, religious, social, or environmental causes. Mr. Varnell is considered a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the FBI based on his actions, views, and involvement in anti-government extremism.
According to the FBI’s Lone Offender Report, released in 2019, 92% of lone-offender attacks involved at least one bystander indicating a subject’s concerning behavior. This investigation was generated as a direct result of, “See Something, Say Something.” Because an individual chose to come forward and report Mr. Varnell’s concerning language and conduct to the FBI, we were able to quickly address the threat and keep our community safe. If you see something, and say something…we will do something.
This investigation was the result of the joint efforts of the FBI Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force, Oklahoma City Police Department, and nearly 100 law enforcement officers from our federal, state, and local partners. We cannot thank our partners enough for their tireless efforts during this investigation.
The FBI recognizes that todays’ sentencing comes at a time in which we are approaching the 25th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing—the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the U.S. We want to reassure everyone that the FBI will continue to bring every available resource to bear so that we remain ahead of any potential threats and to ensure Oklahomans remain safe.
We too are residents of the state of Oklahoma; we live in your neighborhoods, our children go to school with your children, and our lives are threaded into the same Oklahoma fabric as yours. This is our community and protecting and defending the people of Oklahoma is a deeply meaningful mission for each and every member of the FBI. It is our obligation not to allow breath into acts of terror and to stifle any attempt to harm our fellow Oklahomans.
I remind the public that combatting terrorism—both domestically and internationally—has been and will continue to be the FBI’s number one priority.