Justice in Kansas
Three Men Sentenced in Conspiracy to Bomb Somali Immigrants
It was a terrifying plot to bomb a Garden City, Kansas, apartment complex populated mostly by Somali Muslim immigrants. But thanks to individuals who stepped forward and assisted law enforcement with information about suspicious and threatening activities, the three men responsible for hatching the plot were stopped, and the lives of every man, woman, and child in that complex were saved.
And earlier this year, those three men were each sentenced to between 25 and 30 years in federal prison for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to violate the housing rights of their intended victims.
Back in early 2016, the FBI’s Garden City Resident Agency (Kansas City Field Office), received allegations from a confidential source that Patrick Eugene Stein and Curtis Allen, both of Kansas, and Gavin Wright, of Oklahoma, wanted to kill Somali Muslims in southwestern Kansas and were scoping out specific targets and attempting to make and/or obtain explosives.
The three men—members of a Kansas militia group that espoused anti-government and anti-immigrant beliefs—first tried recruiting other members of that group to help them carry out their murderous plan targeting Muslims. No one took them up on their offer, so they formed their own group, calling themselves the Crusaders.
The FBI’s confidential source was willing to continue his contacts with Stein, Allen, and Wright and agreed to record his meetings—through consensual monitoring techniques—with the men. And over the next few months, the Bureau was able to gather a trove of information showing the men weren’t just spewing hate speech, they were making concrete plans to put their words into action.
For example, investigators learned that the June 2016 Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida, spurred the men to carry out a similar attack somewhere against Muslim refugees in Garden City. The three discussed a wide range of targets in addition to apartment complexes, including residences, places of worship, local public officials, landlords who rented to Muslims, and even organizations providing assistance to Muslim refugees. They also discussed—and in some cases actually carried out—surveillance on some of these potential targets before deciding on a specific apartment complex (they liked the fact that the complex also housed a small mosque) and a specific method of attack (explosives).
In addition to their planning, the three men took steps to evade law enforcement, such as meeting inside Wright’s mobile home business with loud music playing in the background to drown out their conversations. They also met in wide open fields where they believed law enforcement couldn’t eavesdrop. And they avoided talking openly about their plans over their phones or over social media.
The Bureau was able to gather a trove of information showing the men weren’t just spewing hate speech, they were making concrete plans to put their words into action.
But after Stein was introduced to an FBI undercover employee (UCE) who the confidential source explained could provide them with automatic weapons and explosive devices, he did lay out some of their planning in a series of text messages to the UCE.
Things came to a head on October 11, 2016, when Allen’s girlfriend contacted local police about a domestic battery incident involving Allen; she also showed police a room in their residence containing a large amount of ammunition as well as components and tools used to make firearms. Allen was taken into custody, and his girlfriend voluntarily provided additional information to the FBI about a white powdery substance she witnessed being produced at Wright’s business and then being cooled in an ice bath. Law enforcement believed that was consistent with the manufacturing of a homemade explosive known as hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD, a dangerous explosive usually used to create blasting caps for a larger explosive.
Executed search warrants on various residences, cars, storage units, and Allen’s business turned up some interesting items—including weapons, explosive material, an HMTD detonator, bomb-making documents, goggles, and bags of fertilizer. And on October 14, 2016, Allen was transferred to federal custody, and Stein and Wright were arrested. All three were charged in the plot to bomb the apartment complex.
The threatening rhetoric and actions of Stein, Allen, and Wright were so extreme they concerned members of their former militia group, one of whom even testified against them during their four-week trial. Allen’s girlfriend testified for the prosecution, as did the confidential source. The jury also heard a number of incriminating recordings of Stein, Allen, and Wright discussing, in detail, their plan to kill Muslims, and saw the back and forth text conversation between Stein and the UCE.
The jury was convinced by the evidence laid out before them—and returned a guilty verdict against the three men in April 2018 after deliberating for less than one day.
This was a challenging case to investigate—this part of Kansas is mostly rural and the kind of place where strangers would be noticed. So the assistance provided by the confidential source and Allen’s girlfriend was absolutely vital in helping law enforcement get eyes on the deadly plot and put a stop to it.
After the arrests of Stein, Allen, and Wright, FBI personnel and other law enforcement officials met with residents of the targeted apartment complex—to brief them on the plot and to assure them that they were safe. That meeting was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship that has evolved over the past couple of years between law enforcement and the local Somali community and continues to this day.