The federal charges announced Monday against nine members of a bizarre "Christian militia" group may be one of the most dramatic examples yet of what some officials have been warning is a worrisome increase in extremist hate activity over the past two years.
Members of the Michigan based group called "the Hutaree" were allegedly plotting to trigger a widespread "uprising" against the U.S. government by murdering a law-enforcement officer and then ambushing those who attended the officer's funeral with improvised explosive devices, according to the indictment unsealed Monday in federal court in Detroit.
The FBI mounted raids against Hutaree members in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana over the weekend and arrested eight of the nine members of the militia. Others are still being sought. A federal law-enforcement official (who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing case) described the Hutaree as a relatively small group with perhaps no more than 50 members overall, according to the indictment.
But the federal indictment portrays the group as a bizarre, extremist outfit that was actively planning to wage "war" against its "enemies"—defined as federal law-enforcement officers who are participants in the "New World Order" as well as state and local law-enforcement officers who serve as their "foot soldiers." Members of the group wear tiger-stripe camouflage uniforms with shoulder patches containing a black cross, two red spears, and the letters CCR, which stand for Colonial Christian Republic, the indictment states. They also engaged in military-style training exercises, including firearms and explosives training, patrolling and reconnaissance exercises, and preparing "ambush kill zones."
In some respects, the increase in such violent hate groups as the Hutaree appears reminiscent of the surge in militia activity that preceded the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Just this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that it had tracked an explosion in extremist, antigovernment "Patriot" groups, fueled in large part by anger over the economy and Barack Obama's presidency. The number of identifiable Patriot groups increased 244 percent, from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009.
As outlined in the indictment, the Hutaree seems to fit the pattern. The group's leader was David Brian Stone, who went by the name of Captain Hutaree. Stone and the group's members were discussing a number of violent attacks aimed at prompting a response by the government, including including killing a law-enforcement officer after a traffic stop, killing an officer and members of his family at their homes, and luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her when they responded.
One specific plot hatched by Stone involved an attack on officers who would be expected to gather in Michigan for the funeral of one of those slain by the group. "According to the plan, the Hutaree would then attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with Improvised Explosive Devices (ID) with Explosively Formed Projectiles," the indictment states. Stone obtained information about such devices over the Internet and e-mailed diagrams to group members. At a summit of militia groups in Kentucky last month, Stone sought to recruit a person to assist with the attack and even identified a specific target near his residence in Lenawee County, Mich. Stone also announced that the group would stage a "covert reconnaissance exercise" next month "during which exercise anyone who happened upon the exercise who did not acquiesce to Hutaree demands could be killed."
Stone and six other defendants did not enter a plea during their initial court appearance today in Detroit. They do not yet have a court-appointed lawyer, and efforts to reach the group by the Associated Press and other news organizations today were unsuccessful.