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5 arrested for trying to blow up bridge in Ohio

CLEVELAND (WJW) –  Federal authorities on Tuesday morning announced that five people were arrested in Cleveland for allegedly conspiring to use explosives to blow up a local bridge.

Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland office, discussed the arrests and subsequent charges related to what they referred to as a “national security case.”

A news conference was held Tuesday morning at the Cleveland FBI headquarters at 1501 Lakeside Avenue.

WJW’s Stacey Frey reports that the suspects have been identified as Brandon Baxter, 20; Anthony Hayne, 35; Joshua Stafford, 23; Connor Stevens, 20; and Douglas Wright, 26. Baxter, Hayne and Wright were arrested Monday night by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce.

A criminal complaint filed Tuesday morning states that Baxter, Hayne and Wright are self-proclaimed anarchists who formed a small group that considered a series of plots over several months.

The initial plot, according to the complaint, involved the use of smoke grenades to distract law enforcement so that co-conspirators could topple financial institution signs atop tall buildings in Downtown Cleveland.

After that, the defendants allegedly conspired to obtain C-4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be placed and remotely detonated.

The complaint states that, over the course of several months, the defendants discussed various Cleveland-area bridges and other targets, resulting in the final plan to blow up the State Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge that crosses from Brecksville to Sagamore Hills over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The drop location for the IEDs was under the bridge on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail near the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Brecksville Station.

Dettelbach and Anthony said that the public was never in danger because the IEDs in question were controlled by an undercover FBI employee. They say the explosives that the closely monitored defendants allegedly purchased and attempted to use were inoperable and posed no threat to the public.

“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” Dettelbach said. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”

“The safety of the citizens of the Northern District of Ohio is and continues to be our primary focus. The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views,” Anthony said. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international.”

Baxter, Hayne, Stafford, Stevens and Wright appeared before a federal magistrate at 2:30 p.m. inside U.S. District court in Cleveland.

Martin Flask, the director of Cleveland’s Department of Public Safety, issued the following statement on behalf of Mayor Frank Jackson:

“On behalf of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, I would like to express my appreciation to FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen D. Anthony and the Cleveland Office of the FBI for their diligence in identifying and exposing a potential threat to our community, and for keeping Cleveland’s safety leadership informed on the progress of the investigation. The FBI has been an invaluable partner to our community and with their support we can continue to improve the quality of life for all those who live in, visit, or work in the City of Cleveland.”

The complaint also indicates that, following the Cleveland-area May Day explosion, the group planned on going to Chicago for the upcoming NATO summit, presumably to cause additional destruction.

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