An aspiring militia leader plotted to kidnap or kill police officers to win over new recruits, and then steal their equipment to arm his budding anti-government revolt, the FBI said Tuesday.
Christian Stanley Ferguson, a 20-year-old Cleveland man, faces an attempted kidnapping charge after an FBI informant infiltrated the chat room where he allegedly hatched his plot, the latest alleged violent anti-government scheme to emerge during the coronavirus pandemic. He sought out co-conspirators to help him murder police on a popular meme website, according to social media posts reviewed by The Daily Beast.
In an FBI affidavit released Tuesday, Ferguson is accused of plotting to kidnap or kill law enforcement officers in a scheme to steal their equipment and draw attention to his budding militia, the “75th Spartans.”
He allegedly went so far as to scout out the site of an ambush and perform a “dry run.”
Since March, the FBI had been monitoring Ferguson’s discussions on gaming chat app Discord after receiving a tip. In messages, Ferguson allegedly planned with other people in the chat how they would ambush law enforcement officials, and either kidnap them or kill them to steal their guns and body armor.
“If we can keep 1 or 2 alive to get answers great but it’s not an objective,” Ferguson allegedly wrote in a March 21 Discord message.
Ferguson’s alleged plot is just the latest purported scheme to kill law enforcement officers during the pandemic. In April, a Texas man was arrested after live-streaming his alleged plan to kill a police officer. And in May, a Colorado man affiliated with the anti-government “Boogaloo” movement was arrested and charged with possessing pipe bombs he allegedly planned to use to fend off a law enforcement search.
Ferguson hoped to not only acquire weapons and equipment in the attack, but also to win over new recruits, according to the affidavit. Along the way, Ferguson appears to have drawn inspiration from the Three Percenter militia movement, a nationwide collection of militias.
Ferguson allegedly imagined setting the dead officers’ bodies and cars on fire after the ambush, and leaving a “calling card” with the militia’s name to inspire other anti-government militias to attack law enforcement. In a tape recording made by a federal informant, Ferguson allegedly imagined a Fox News broadcast warning that “the Spartans are killing police officers.”
“We’ll just need to leave a calling card with the Spartans name once the media gets a hold of our card we’ll spread like wild and other militias will get up,” Ferguson allegedly said in a Discord message.
He appears to have tried to recruit members to the cop-killing scheme on iFunny, a meme website for young people. An iFunny account with the same username as the one used on Ferguson’s Facebook page posted a meme urging people to “join the 75th Spartans,” amid other posts about anime cartoon women in provocative poses.
“ WE ARE A (sic) AMERICAN MILITA (sic) THAT WILL REVOLT AGIANST (sic) THE TYRANNY AT HOME,” the image reads, over an image of a Spartan helmet with the Three Percenter-logo imposed over two crossed AR-15-style rifles.
In another post, the account urged iFunny users to join the 75th Spartans’ Discord group.
Ferguson appears to have succeeded in winning at least a few people to his militia chat on Discord. They considered various ways to spark an anti-government revolt, including raiding armories for weapons, then using government radios to “send a message out to the other armories around us to basically tell them not to fuck with us.”
But Ferguson kept steering the discussion back to kidnapping or murdering law enforcement officers, according to the FBI. One member of the group shared recipes for poisonous gas that could be used to incapacitate police officers, while Ferguson allegedly plotted to fake a domestic violence call to 911, then ambush responding officers.
“We need to keep the op small but loud,” Ferguson allegedly wrote on Discord. “We still are building numbers but this will get patriots and future Spartans interested.”
The FBI placed two undercover informants in Ferguson’s orbit, according to the affidavit. On May 2, Ferguson met one of the informants in a park, according to the FBI, and brought an AR-15 rifle and ammunition while he discussed the purported plot. Ferguson allegedly said he “hoped” he wouldn’t have to kill any police officers in the ambush before adding, “ I will do it if I have to.”
On May 8, Ferguson met with the two informants in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park for a “dry run” of the ambush, even scouting a potential house for the attack, according to the FBI. He allegedly imagined killing most of the officers who responded to the fake call, but “leaving one to limp home and tell law enforcement that the Spartans are out here hunting us.”
Ferguson was arrested on May 8, shortly after the trip to the national park. The FBI claims that Ferguson admitted to creating the kidnapping plot and running the Discord group in an interview after his arrest.