Weekend FBI raids in Midwest lead to arrests of Christian extremists
FBI spokeswoman won't say whether raids were linked
By Mike Householder
The Associated Press
ADRIAN, Mich. — The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people, and a militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian extremist group.
Federal warrants were sealed, but FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said there had been activity in two southwest Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. She wouldn't say whether they were tied to the raids in the other states.
FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said agents arrested two people Saturday after raids in two towns in Ohio. A third arrest was made in northeast Illinois on Sunday, a day after a raid took place just over the border in northwest Indiana.
Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group, who said their property in southwest Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide," Lackomar said. "My team leader said, 'no thanks.' "
The team leader was cooperating with the FBI on Sunday, Lackomar said. He said SMVM wasn't affiliated with Hutaree, which states on its Web site to be "prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren't."
"We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. All Christians must know this and prepare, just as Christ commanded," the group's Web site said. "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.
An e-mail sent to the group by The Associated Press wasn't returned Sunday, and phone numbers for the group's leadership were not immediately available.
Lackomar said none of the raids focused on his group, which is affiliated with the Michigan Militia, a larger militia umbrella group. Lackomar said about eight to 10 members of Hutaree trained with SMVM twice in the past three years. SMVM holds monthly training sessions focusing on survival training and shooting practice, Lackomar said.
FBI agents in Ohio made arrests in Huron and Sandusky on Saturday night, Wilson said. No further information would be released until after they appeared in court Monday, he said.
One of the raids occurred at Bayshore Estates, a trailer park in Sandusky, a small city on Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland, park manager Terry Mills said. Authorities blocked off the street for about an hour Saturday night, he said.
"Needless to say, this has everyone talking," said Mills, 62. "We have a lot of retirees here who don't want all this commotion."
Mills said he didn't know the identity of the person arrested.