GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids man who was flagged by the FBI after allegedly building bombs is now facing a federal charge of lying to an officer.
Aaron Fein, 24, first showed up on the radar of federal authorities when he was stopped at the U.S- Canada border with a notebook containing a handwritten checklist of ingredients to build a bomb that could be remotely detonated, a federal criminal complaint shows.
Investigators say Fein told them the notebook contained “things on the internet that interested him.”
The complaint says Fein alerted federal authorities to “partially-constructed electronic triggering devices” in his bedroom he said he built.
Fein, who was trying to re-enter the U.S., told investigators he was “going crazy” because a power outage knocked out his internet serve, and he wanted to go to Canada before he died.
SYMPATHIZING WITH SHOOTERS
When authorities examined Fein’s laptop and desktop computers, they found he’d been searching about mass murders, terrorism and mass shootings, the complaint states. A search of his phone found he’d searched how to enter Canada illegally and about the Florida mass shooting at a video game tournament days before he was detained.
Fein, an industrial engineering graduate who described himself as friendless, “stated that although he felt sympathy for victims of such events, he also felt empathy for people who committed such acts because they must have their reasons and that he felt isolated and maligned by society,” the court document states.
In an Aug. 30 interview, Fein told federal investigators he thought the people behind mass casualty incidents “had been bullied in school and that, like him, they had probably been on medications at some point in their lives, according to the complaint.
Federal authorities say Fein also admitted to posting pictures of mass shooters, saying he was unemployed and that maybe he should “go shoot up a school.”
FLAGGED BY THE FBI
The criminal complaint also outlined Fein’s mental health struggles and repeated attempts to buy a gun, which started on Oct. 3 and involved three Grand Rapids area stores. Each time, a national criminal background check came back with red flags based on the FBI investigation and the sale was delayed.
When asked why he wanted a weapon, Fein told authorities in subsequent interviews that he “did not want to feel inferior to people that did own firearms” and for self-defense.
Even after promising an agent he would visit a psychologist and not purchase a gun, Fein revisited all three gun stores and finally succeeded in buying a gun, the complaint says. Fein agreed to give up the gun to the agent, but returned to the shooting range that day to fire a rental gun until a store employee recognized him and called Wyoming police.
The document states two days later, Fein visited the third gun store in Cascade Township to try to rent a gun to use on their range. Some employees there were aware of the trespassing complaint against Fein at the other gun store and thought he was “behaving strangely” so they refused to rent to him or allow him to use the range.
“Fein became angry and left the premises shouting,” the complaint states.
Authorities ordered Fein be picked up for a hospital evaluation on March 7. A psychologist determined he was “struggling with depression, hopelessness, and thoughts of hurting others” and needed in-patient treatment.
‘SUBSTANTIAL RISK’ ON THE MOVE
On March 20, Fein was released on the conditions that he still seek out-patient treatment, take his medication and not own a gun. At a probate court hearing that day, the court determined Fein posed a “substantial risk” of harm to himself or others “in the near future.”
About a month later on the day a Florida woman obsessed with the Columbine High School shooting took her own life, Fein visited an Ann Arbor gun range, the complaint says. Federal agents say he rented an AR-15 rifle and purchased 100 rounds of ammunition and a lesson on how to use the weapon.
During the lesson, the FBI contacted the store. Employees lied about problems with range’s ventilation system to halt his lesson with a promise of continuing it later. The federal court document says Fein then traveled to Cabela’s in Dundee where he asked about ammunition compatible with an AR-15, then drove to Ohio where he spent the night near another gun store.
At that point, federal authorities ordered police to pick up Fein. Michigan State Police stopped him on his way back to Cabela’s During police questioning, Fein admitted to visiting a gun store on the east side of the state “to ask questions,” but denied handling or firing a weapon, the complaint states.
On Monday, Fein’s aunt told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone that the family is fighting the charge and doesn’t believe he’s a threat to the public.