Two California men have been indicted on charges they conspired to attack the Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.
According to the unsealed indictment, Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo started plotting to attack Democratic targets after the 2020 presidential election and also tried to get support from an anti-government group to further the cause.
Law enforcement officers seized five pipe bombs, thousands of rounds of ammunition and “between 45 and 50 firearms, including at least three fully-automatic weapons” during a January searches at the home and business of Rogers, the owner of British Auto Repair of the Napa Valley.
When agents initially raided the terrorist’s lair, finding the pipe bombs and cache of guns, Rogers’ attorney claimed his client was “simply following the advice and the commentary of the president of the United States.”
Prosecutors argued that a string of violent threats and right-wing statements made in text messages and an encrypted chat app amplified the public safety threat posed by Rogers’ weaponry, while defense attorney Jess Raphael asserted that such threats were “generalized political hyperbole with no intent to follow through” — the result of drunken behavior by an avowed Donald Trump supporter rather than actual intent to do harm.
“The FBI’s highest priority has remained preventing terrorist attacks before they occur, including homegrown plots from domestic violent extremists,” said Craig Fair, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office. “As described in the indictment, Ian Rogers and Jarrod Copeland planned an attack using incendiary devices. The FBI and the Napa County Sheriff’s Office have worked hand-in-hand to uncover this conspiracy and to prevent any loss of life.”
“The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, and the Napa Special Investigations Bureau discovered five pipe bombs and other explosive material during our joint investigation,” said Fair. “The FBI investigates all credible threats, and our highest priority is ensuring public safety. We urge the public to remain vigilant. We need the community’s support in reporting threatening behavior and suspicious activity to local law enforcement or the FBI.”
The Justice Department did not identify which group the two men allegedly reached out to for support.
In numerous messages they exchanged, the two discussed blowing up buildings, the Justice Department said.
A criminal complaint alleges that Rogers, 43, of Napa, possessed five pipe bombs discovered by law enforcement officers and federal agents during a search of his business on January 15, 2021.
The complaint says that on that date, Rogers was arrested and a search warrant was served on his home and business in Napa County, where officers found a large gun safe.
Inside the safe, the officers and agents discovered and seized several guns and the five pipe bombs. They also identified other materials at the scene that could be used to manufacture destructive devices, including black powder, pipes, endcaps, and manuals, including The Anarchist Cookbook, U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook, and Homemade C-4 A Recipe for Survival.
At least 49 guns were seized from Roger’s home and business along with thousands of rounds of ammunition. Officers and agents also discovered a sticker on Roger’s vehicle window that is commonly used by so-called “Three-Percenters,” people who ascribe to extreme neo-Nazi, anti-government, pro-gun beliefs.
On February 21, 2021, the Three-Percenters leadership dissolved the American national group in response to the 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, allegedly condemning the violence but in June, six men associated with the group were indicted for conspiracy related to the and Canada declared the organization a terrorist entity. The attempted coup d’état sought to keep the losing candidate, Donald Trump, in power by violently disrupting a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the presidential election.
Rogers was arrested on January 15, 2021, and appeared in Napa County state criminal court on state illegal firearm charges.
According to the mother of the 45-year-old auto repair shop owner, Elaine Bihn Kley, the accumulation of guns and ammunition by her son concerned her, as did his increasing alliance to President Trump and commentators of similar right-wing views.
“He had the ammunition for years; he used to have it in the house when I cleaned,” said Kley, who described Rogers as a devoted Fox News Channel watcher with pictures of Trump and President Ronald Reagan in his home.
Rogers’ attorney denied that there was any connection between him and any reported threats to the inauguration or any other event..
“There is absolutely no evidence that logically connects him to any of the recent events in Washington D.C. other than the inauspicious timing of his arrest, even though thousands of miles away, and his allegiance to the Republican Party,” Raphael said.
Copeland is accused of attempting to destroy evidence of the plan after Rogers’ Jan. 15 arrest.
Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party, called the accusations “extremely disturbing.”
“We are relieved to know the plot was unsuccessful, the individuals believed to be responsible are in custody, and our staff and volunteers are safe and sound,” Hicks said in a statement. “Yet, it points to a broader issue of violent extremism that is far too common in today’s political discourse.”
Copeland was arrested Wednesday and made an initial court appearance Thursday. He’s scheduled to appear in court again on July 20 for a detention hearing. Rogers is scheduled to appear in court July 30 for a status conference.
If convicted on all charges, each defendant faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, officials said.