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Investigator: Bombing suspects have history of anarchist views

11:53 AM, May 2, 2012   |    comments
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The ringleader in the group arrested in a foiled bomb plot is from Indiana, but a Channel 3 News investigation found that the other four all grew up in Cleveland and have long histories of hating the government and corporate America.

Related story: The Investigation: FBI's joint terrorism task force on bomb plot

Related story: Bomb plotters had ties to Occupy Cleveland

Take Connor Stevens, a 20 year old who police say is homeless. Stevens was removed from Berea High School in 2007 for disrupting a job fair involving military recruiters, according to a police report obtained by Channel 3 News.

Police say Stevens later sent emails to a recruiter, calling him a "fascist pig," according to a police report. He also advocated "killing" or "maiming" police officers.

Police later found Stevens had posted the Unabomber's Manifesto to a personal website.

The FBI arrested Stevens last night along with suspected ringleader Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon Baxter, 20; Anthony Hayne, 35; and Joshua Stafford, 23.

They are accused of conspiring to detonate a bomb under the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge that connects Brecksville and Sagamore Hills over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The feds say that before the suspects decided to blow up the Route 82 bridge, they considered a number of other targets. Those included the bank signs on top of downtown skyscrapers, the Detroit-Superior bridge, the new Horseshoe Casino on opening night and the Fusion Center where authorities track terrorist activity. 

Another potential target: a Federal Reserve Bank, possibly the one downtown.  The FBI says Wright suggested driving a vehicle into the building with explosives and blowing it to pieces.

One place they wouldn't touch: the Justice Center because inmates might get hurt, according to a 21-page FBI affidavit. The five didn't want to be considered terrorists.

Instead, the FBI says, the group wanted to cripple the city's financial center.

They came up with bombing a bridge while driving on the I-480 Valley View Bridge. The FBI  says it recorded one of the suspects telling the others that "taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the corporate big wigs a lot of money ... because it's going to stop a lot of people going to work."

The five tried to recruit others at Occupy Cleveland rallies, but the feds says nobody was up for their special plan. From there, the group considered finding people at homeless shelters and east side neighborhoods, but that apparently didn't pan out.

Wright appears to have relied heavily on Baxter, who grew up in Lakewood. Neighbors says Baxter's dad had multiple run-ins with city officials and practiced throwing hatchets in the back yard.

"I know he came from a troubled background and broken home and quite often he would just disappear," said Tom Shafer.

Rocky River police arrested Baxter this February in a bizarre altercation.

"He was dressed in camouflage, he jumped out in front of a car in the middle of the night and told the driver to kill me," said Lt. Carl Gulas.

When police found him on the Hilliard Bridge, Baxter had a knife and was threatening to jump. Cops got him down and sent him for mental help. But when he returned to get his stuff, Baxter told police they were fascist pigs.

Hayne is the oldest suspect at 35.  He has a number of felony convictions in several counties. A neighbor told us she wasn't surprised at today's news.  

"They continually harass us, harass our animals," said Janet Kihm. "They're just not nice people. They scream at us all the time at all hours of the night. They're up all night long."

Stafford was previously convicted of assault and harassment. His mother said Stafford had expressed his anarchist views to her in recent months.

"He's been troubled since he's been young, been in and out of hospitals, prisons, jails," the mother said. "He's just been a troubled soul since he's been born."  

WKYC-TV

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