WASHINGTON — Five people were arrested in a federal sting operation in which FBI agents provided inoperable explosives to suspects allegedly intending to bomb an Ohio bridge, the Justice Department said.
Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, described as self-proclaimed anarchists in a Justice Department statement, were arrested Monday on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials. Charges are pending against Connor Stevens, 20, and Joshua Stafford, 23, who were also arrested, the department said.
“The safety of the citizens of the Northern District is and continues to be our primary focus,” Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland division, said in the statement. “The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views.”
Wright, Baxter and Hayne initially considered using smoke grenades in a plot to topple financial institution signs atop high-rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, prosecutors said in the statement, citing a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
The plan evolved into one requiring the use of C-4 explosives to be placed under a bridge that crosses from Brecksville to Sagamore Hills over Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the complaint. The explosives were to be remotely detonated, prosecutors said.
The fake explosives were controlled by an undercover FBI agent, and the public was never in danger, prosecutors said.
The bridge carries Route 82, a four-lane state highway, according to the affidavit. It’s a high-level bridge about 400 feet long that stretches over a valley, said Rose Mary Snell, a Sagamore Hills trustee for 19 years.
It is a popular recreation area with a railroad and trail for hiking and biking running under the bridge, said Snell, noting, “It could have been a real tragedy.”