U.S.|Two Men Charged With Plotting to Blow Up California Democratic Headquarters
The men consulted with an antigovernment paramilitary organization and hoped to start a “movement” that could keep former President Donald J. Trump in office.
July 16, 2021, 5:00 p.m. ET
Angered by the results of the 2020 presidential election, two men in Northern California plotted for months to blow up the state Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, according to federal authorities.
The men, who face conspiracy and weapons charges, consulted with an antigovernment paramilitary organization, hoping to start a “movement” that could keep former President Donald J. Trump in office. Using encrypted messaging apps, they discussed various targets, including the Governor’s Mansion as well as Twitter and Facebook offices, court documents said.
“I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” documents quoted one defendant, Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, as texting to the other man, Jarrod Copeland, 37.
The suspected plot is the latest in a range of antigovernment activity linked to the 2020 election and its aftermath, some of it involving paramilitary groups.
Mr. Rogers was arrested on Jan. 15 on state weapons charges after a search of his home and business turned up some 50 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and five pipe bombs, court papers said. He has been held in jail in Napa County since his arrest.
Black powder, pipes and other bomb-making material as well as various military manuals like the “U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook” were also found, prosecutors said.
Mr. Copeland was arrested on Thursday, when he and Mr. Rogers were indicted in federal court in San Francisco on charges of conspiring to attack the Democratic headquarters. Mr. Rogers also faces federal weapons charges.
Mr. Copeland is accused of obstruction of justice charges and is suspected of erasing his communications about the plot after he learned that Mr. Rogers had been arrested. The charges of conspiracy to commit arson carry potential jail sentences of up to 20 years.
Colin L. Cooper, a lawyer for Mr. Rogers, denied the charges. “He had nothing to do whatsoever with planning to storm the Democratic headquarters up in Sacramento,” Mr. Cooper said.
John A. Ambrosio, Mr. Copeland’s lawyer, said he had entered a plea of not guilty and declined further comment. Mr. Copeland said in the documents that he thought Mr. Rogers just wanted to “blow off steam,” and that he did not take the threats seriously.
In late November, according to the indictment, the two men began using text messages to discuss possible Democratic targets, including George Soros, a high-profile donor, before settling on the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento.
A month later, Mr. Copeland messaged to say he had contacted an antigovernment paramilitary group with the aim of gathering support for their “movement.” The two groups he mentioned in seeking help were the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters.
Court papers said both Mr. Copeland and Mr. Rogers had been previously affiliated with the Three Percenters, whose name is based on the false premise that just 3 percent of American colonists fought the British in the Revolutionary War.
A photograph of a Three Percenters sticker on a vehicle said to belong to Mr. Rogers was included in the documents.
In text messages, Mr. Rogers said the two men should begin their attacks after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
In one of the texts obtained by the federal agents, Mr. Rogers wrote, “The democrats need to pay.” In reference to Mr. Trump, he added, “I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will.”
Mr. Rogers ran an auto repair company in the city of Napa that specialized in servicing high-end British vehicles. When asked in a 2014 interview with a local news organization which person he admired most, his first response was Mr. Trump.
Mr. Copeland, from Vallejo, joined the military in December 2013 but was arrested on desertion charges in both 2014 and 2016, when he received a dishonorable discharge, the court papers said. He is the manager at a tool company.
The two men discussed the probability that they would be labeled terrorists but waved off the issue. “We will get tagged as domestic terrorists,” Mr. Copeland wrote at one point. Mr. Rogers responded, according to the court documents, “Like I care what we are labeled,” adding, “I just hope our actions will make others to get involved.”
Kitty Bennett contributed research.