Two Californians charged in plot to blow up Democratic headquarters in Sacramento

Two Northern California militia members, one of whom stockpiled weapons and explosives, have been charged in a plot to blow up the state Democratic headquarters in Sacramento, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, allegedly unhappy with the outcome of the November presidential election, plotted the attack in the hopes of sparking a “movement” of broader violence, federal prosecutors allege.

Days after the election, the two men began discussing attacks on targets they associated with Democrats, including the governor’s mansion and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook, according to an earlier court filing.

By the end of November, they had picked their first target: the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in a tree-lined residential area of Sacramento, just blocks from the Capitol, according to the indictment.

Democratic Party chairman Rusty Hicks called the plot “extremely disturbing,” in a news release, adding that, “it points to a broader issue of violent extremism that is far too common in today’s political discourse.”

Rogers allegedly told Copeland via an encrypted messaging application in November that he would “hit the enemy in the mouth,” using Molotov cocktails and gasoline to attack those targets, according to a news release from the FBI, which conducted the investigation.

On Jan. 11, Rogers allegedly told Copeland, ““I want to blow up a democrat building bad.”

Copeland replied, ” “I agree,” and “Plan attack,” according to the indictment.

Rogers ended the exchange saying, “Let’s see what happens after the 20th we go to war.”

President Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Before the plot could progress further, a person close to Rogers in Napa reported him to authorities as “potentially dangerous to the community,” according to Henry Wofford, public information officer for the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, who spoke with the Times in January.

Federal authorities working with the sheriff’s office raided Rogers’ home and auto repair business, British Auto Repair of the Napa Valley, on Jan. 15, charging him days later with possessing five homemade pipe bombs after finding weapons at both locations. They also confiscated bomb-making materials along with firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

In all, authorities seized 49 guns and 15,000 rounds of ammunition, Wofford said at the time, including a “very high power machine gun.” The indictment alleges that Rogers possessed multiple weapons described as machine guns.

In an earlier statement, Napa County Dist. Atty. Allison Haley said the pipe bombs were made out of galvanized steel, had both end caps and fuses, could kill people in a 5-foot range and injure those in a 25-foot range.

Authorities also found a bumper sticker on Rogers’ vehicle associated with the Three Percenters, a paramilitary militia group whose members allegedly have been associated with other violence in recent months. Rogers, whose arrest came less than two weeks after a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, led by far-right extremists and Trump supporters, also faces state weapons charges.

Prosecutors allege that after learning of the arrest, Copeland contacted a militia group that both men belonged to for advice. A leader of that group allegedly advised Copeland to erase his communications with Rogers and switch to a new platform, which Copeland agreed to. Law enforcement searched Copeland’s residence on Jan. 17 and took his electronic devices, court papers said.

Rogers has been in custody in Napa since his January arrest. Copeland was arrested Wednesday and also remains in custody.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used in or affecting interstate commerce, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Rogers also faces weapons charges, and Copeland faces a charge of destroying records. Both men have court appearances scheduled for later this month.

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