LUTHER, Mich. (WOOD) — From the dirt road, the two-track looks like all the others leading to any number of deer camps.
Tracks left by deer on the dusty road co-mingle with those left by pickup trucks.
Less than a half-mile down, just off 3 Mile Road, a few turns in the road from Luther, there’s a trailer hidden in the woods with a small Confederate sticker and a shot-up stop sign.
Behind that, piles of old tires form the back wall of what the federal government is calling a training facility for militia members who were trying to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Shell casings and shotgun shells litter the ground. Two human silhouettes are crudely painted in red on a wooden wall. The silhouettes are peppered with holes.
This, according to an affidavit, is where a half-dozen militia members — Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — met the weekend of Sept. 12. With them were an informant and an undercover agent secretly audio recording everything.
The feds said that Garbin owns the property, but local records don’t show any record of that.
According to the affidavit, Croft brought what he called a “chemistry set,” including components for a bomb. The feds said he removed the cap from a commercial firework, added more black powder, then wrapped the device in pennies and electrical tape for shrapnel.
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“The group set the device in a clearing surrounded by human silhouette targets” and Croft detonated the bomb, the affidavit states.
After the blast, some of the group discussed the plot to kidnap the governor, then some left for the one-and-a-half-hour drive to conduct night-time surveillance of the governor’s summer home, according to the affidavit.
Residents from at least a half-mile away heard the blast.
“There was a big explosion, big boom, and I know what bombs sound like, from the military,” neighbor Cliff Demos said.
But residents didn’t report it.
“You hear a lot of gunfire here,” Demos said. “Where we live, it’s so rural.”
“It’s pretty serious when you’ve got a group of people that are going to kidnap your governor,” Demos said. “That’s serious and that’s scary.”
Lake County Sheriff Richard Martin said he was unaware of any of this until the feds showed up Wednesday.
Neighbors said it started with a helicopter flying over the area Wednesday evening, then with state police and FBI agents blocking the two-track leading to the camp.
“We haven’t had any issues that I can recall of any criminal activity or any type of police complaints in that area,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff said he knows some local militia members, but that he’d never heard of the suspects identified in the kidnapping conspiracy. They aren’t from Lake County.
“I don’t think this actual sect (from Lake County) was part of that organization,” he said.
“There’s ways to go about things and there’s ways to not go about things and when we have this fanatical approach to something like that, because it didn’t only involve the governor, it involved law enforcement, so obviously, that’s near and dear to my heart,” the sheriff said.