By: April Carson
The family of a man charged with attempting to set off what he thought was an explosives-containing van outside an Oklahoma bank claims he is paranoid schizophrenic and that the FBI were aware of it.
Jerry Varnell, 23, of Sayre, was arrested Saturday after he allegedly tried to detonate a vehicle he believed was laden with explosives outside BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City, according to a criminal complaint. He has been charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce.
Clifford and Melonie Varnell of Sayre, Oklahoma, released a statement late Tuesday in which they ask why undercover FBI agents employed such aggressive measures to arrest 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell. He was arrested early Saturday for allegedly planning to place a vehicle bomb.
According to the family's statement, Varnell, who resides with his mother and stepfather in Sayre, about 130 miles west of Oklahoma City, is unemployed due to schizophrenia and lacks the financial means to do it alone.
"The FBI took him away from our house, provided him with a vehicle and a phony bomb, and enabled him to carry out this attack," the statement said. "Authorities should not have aided and abetted a paranoid schizophrenic in committing this crime."
Jessica Rice of the FBI's Oklahoma City office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Williams in Tulsa declined to comment on the case Wednesday.
According to the statement, "Varnell has gone through numerous serious full-blown schizophrenic delusional episodes and has been committed to mental hospitals on a regular basis since he was 16 years old." It went on to say that his mother and father are his legal guardians and do all they can "to keep him safe and functional."
The mental health system has "continually" failed us, according to the statement, because it lacks such facilities and insurance coverage for someone like him. Varnell takes medicine, but he will never be completely functional in life, according to the release.
The Varnells claim that their son is readily influenced and that a confidential source who alerted FBI agents to the alleged conspiracy might have motivated it.
The complaint alleges that after being informed of the alleged plot by a confidential informant, the FBI sent an undercover agent posing as an explosives expert to Varnell who might assist him. According to the document, Varnell stated that he had experience constructing small bombs, but was persuaded by an undercover agent that the agent should furnish the materials.
Finally, officials claim Varnell was given with fake bomb-making materials. Varnell was observed for months as the alleged bomb plot evolved during a long-term domestic terror investigation, according to federal prosecutors.
Varnell allegedly wanted to destroy the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, according to a complaint.
He had allegedly cased the building and made a phone call to someone in which he said, "I'm thinking maybe like the Oklahoma City bombing. Take out a whole building."
According to federal authorities, Varnell later identified BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City as his target. When asked why he changed targets from the government building to BancFirst instead of continuing with his original plan, he responded, "I don't want to kill a lot of people," according to the complaint.
Varnell allegedly talked about wanting to "take down a government facility or other structures" while referencing the film "Fight Club." He also allegedly told an undercover agent that he had been planning an attack for months and that it would "send a message to the government and wake people up."
According to the complaint, Varnell allegedly stated that he was a member of the "Three Percenters," a far-right anti-government group that has opposed gun control measures and vowed resistance to federal intervention in the violation of constitutional rights.
Varnell "claimed to have a bunker for when the world collapsed" and stated that he was attempting to form a team, according to the FBI's informant's text messages with him.
"I'm out for blood," the lawsuit claims Varnell's texts said. "When militias start to form, I'll go after government officials with a team."
Varnell is charged with making a false statement to law enforcement about the explosions. According to the complaint, Varnell prepared a statement for publication on social media after the blast, assisted in putting together what he thought was the explosive device, and aided in loading it into what he believed was a stolen van. Varnell is said to have driven the van to BancFirst, parked it in an alley near the building, then called a number on his phone that he hoped would set off the explosion.
On August 22, a federal detention hearing for Varnell is scheduled. Varnell may face five to 20 years in prison if convicted of attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce.
"I'm sort of new to this whole thing," Varnell said in a post on Facebook two days before the would-be bombing, according to the criminal complaint. "But I've been learning a lot lately."
In another post, Varnell wrote that he wanted to "to blow up a building and kill as many people as possible," the complaint said.
Terri Coulter, the court-appointed defense attorney for Varnell, declined to comment.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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