CLEVELAND — A shocking terror plot targeting northeast Ohio is stopped. Five men were planning to bomb a heavily traveled bridge.
Fortunately, the person the men thought was helping them was actually working undercover for the FBI. All five were arrested and placed behind bars.
The FBI said the group’s terror target was the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge, which carries Route 82 over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“They researched different places, different buildings, different entities and came to the conclusion over much discussion that they could probably have, in their mind, the most impact by targeting a bridge, and in some way impacting commerce or worse,” said Steve Anthony, FBI Special Agent in Charge.
The accused men are Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20, Anthony Hayne, 35, Connor Stevens, 20, and Joshua Stafford, 23.
Baxter spoke to Fox 8 News during a Trayvon Martin rally in downtown Cleveland in March.
“It’s sick and disgusting that this happens. It happens far too often, this is not the only case where this has happened,” said Baxter at the time.
Investigators said the men all describe themselves as self-proclaimed anarchists, taking a stand against the government and corporate America.
Investigators also said the men began hatching the plot in October, and last month bought what they thought were remote activated improvised explosive devices.
They said on Monday night, the men placed them at the base of the bridge and tried to detonate them from a remote location.
“The public was never in any danger. The defendants never possessed, at any time, any real explosive material, and their arrest warrants were signed before they got in the car to head to the bridge,” said Steve Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“Chills went all over me because I go over this bridge every day and I couldn’t believe it,” reacted Sagamore Hills resident Joy Nichols.
“There are still a lot of threats out there, but you gotta hand it to our law enforcement people and our military intelligence people, they’re really on the ball,” said Major Allen Fritz, a resident of Broadview Heights.
“He was a friend of my daughter’s and he needed a place to stay,” explained Cheryl Bradbury, whose daughter once dated suspect Anthony Hayne.
Bradbury says Hayne was always in trouble. Court records show a list of arrests and convictions, mainly for theft.
“They need to lock him up this time and keep him, don’t let him back out,” she said.
All five men who are charged are also members of the Occupy Cleveland protest movement. But local organizers strongly distanced themselves from their alleged actions.
“Anybody that says that they’re gonna do some violence in the name of Occupy is obviously not part of Occupy. We do not condone any violence, anything like that. This is all about taking a stand for our rights. Doing stuff like that is inevitably gonna get your rights taken away,” said Occupy Cleveland’s Randy Ball.
The Occupy Cleveland movement also released a statement on Tuesday that said in part, “While the persons arrested Monday evening by the FBI have participated in Occupy Cleveland events, they were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland. Occupy Cleveland has affirmed the principals of non-violence since its inception on October 6, 2011.”
The suspects appeared in U.S. District Court Tuesday afternoon. They were charged with conspiracy and the attempted use of explosive material to damage affecting interstate commerce.
Investigators also said the suspects were angry and upset that other people within the organization refused to support their violent plot.