A 23-year-old Oklahoma man faces federal charges after he attempted to detonate what he believe to be a 1,000-pound bomb in downtown Oklahoma City Friday night.
Jerry Drake Varnell of Sayer, Okla. was arrested early Saturday morning after he used a cell phone to detonate what he believed to be a bomb placed in a van he believed to have been stolen. But Varnell had been set up by an undercover FBI agent, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Oklahoma.
Varnell placed the van in an alley next to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City.
Varnell came on law enforcement’s radar in December, after a confidential source contacted the bureau with information that Varnell wanted to detonate a bomb at the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C. Varnell wanted to model the bomb after the one exploded by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995.
The informant told the FBI that Varnell was angry with the U.S. government and sought to form a small militia group. The informant also communicated frequently with Varnell, who spoke of obtaining 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the main ingredient of McVeigh’s bomb, which killed 168 people. According to a complaint filed by the Justice Department, Varnell played an active role in the bomb plot.
He identified the BancFirst building and had prepared a statement that was to be posted to social media after the explosion. Varnell also helped assemble the device, which was inert, and assisted in loading the fake bomb into a van he believed to be stolen. He also drove the van to the BancFirst building and dialed a number on a cell phone, expecting it to set off a massive explosion.
Varnell did tell the informant that he chose the BancFirst location after normal work hours because he did not want to “kill a bunch of people.”
The federal complaint indicates that Varnell may be a meth addict. At one point, he met with the informant after having gone on a two-day drug binge.
Varnell faces a maximum 20 year prison sentence in the case. He is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce. He is expected to appear in federal court in Oklahoma on Monday.
Varnell’s statements to the government informant and his activities on social media suggest that while he has strong anti-government leanings, he does not have specific political leanings. According to the federal complaint, he claimed in a conversation with the informant that he was a “Three Percenter,” a reference to a patriot group that opposes the federal government.
Varnell also “liked” several militia groups on his Facebook page. He also appears to be an advocate of gay rights. He recently posted a photo of himself with the rainbow flag superimposed over the image.
An ex-girlfriend of Varnell’s posted on his Facebook page on Monday stating that she was no longer dating the attempted bomber.
The woman told The Daily Caller that she and Varnell broke up a few weeks ago and only dated for a short time. She said she was not aware of his political leanings and that he never made anti-government statements to her.