Authorities Investigating Assassination Plot by Militia Group
KALISPELL (AP) - A militia organization based in northwestern Montana was planning to assassinate as many judges, prosecutors and cops as possible, amassing an arsenal that included fully automatic weapons and 30,000 rounds of ammunition, one of the targeted lawmen said Wednesday.
"We found weapons, ammunition, survival equipment, booby traps, body armor, explosive, bomb-making equipment, you name it," Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont said. "It all certainly supports the theory that there was going to be big trouble. The last I heard, it didn't take 30,000 rounds of ammo to kill a turkey."
Dupont said the "hit list" included his name and those of County Attorney tom Esch, Kalispell Police Chief Frank Garner, state District Judges Kitty Curtis and Stewart Stadler, various deputies and police officers and family members where possible.
"We're pretty sure they were planning on assassinating as many cops and public officials as possible," he said.
Dupont said the group, called Project Seven, was headed by 38-year-old Dave Burgert, who was arrested earlier this month after an armed standoff that lasted nearly seven hours. Burgert had been awaiting trial on charges he assaulted a police officer in January 2001. He also faced charges of obstructing a police officer in a November 2001 incident.
Dupont said Burgert faked his own death and disappeared as a judge was ordering he be taken off house arrest and placed in jail. He was nabbed after an informant member of Project Seven led officers to the home of Tracy Brockway, where Burgert was hiding out.
Burgert and Brockway remain jailed.
A "wanted poster" for the informant, with his picture and personal information, has been circulated, but the man is safe and investigation into the militia-type group is under way by national law enforcement agencies, the sheriff said.
Brockway, 32, is charged with obstruction of justice for harboring Burgert. She also is suspected of using her job as a cleaning woman at the Whitefish Police Department to gather information about officers and their families.
"They had these information sheets, actual forms printed out from a computer," Dupont said. "They had officers' names, addresses, places they eat, places they shop, stuff about their kids. They even had information on what medications one guy's wife was taking."
Dupont said there is some question "whether this was a wide conspiracy or just Burgert."
He said some answers may be on a computer seized at Brockway's house, with much of the information encrypted, although the woman has provided a password to decode some of the information.
Dupont said the computer files could lead to additional charges against Burgert, as well as conspiracy charges against at least four other Flathead Valley residents believed to be members of Project Seven.
The militia's name refers to Flathead County license plates, which all begin with the number seven. A similar cell, called Project 56, is believed to be operating in adjacent Lincoln County.
Dupont said the plate-based cells each have about 10 members who are linked by a "mother cell" that serves as a communications hub.
Project Seven, Dupont said, hoped to kill enough judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers to force the state to call in the National Guard. The militia then hoped to kill enough National Guard troops to catch the federal government's attention, beginning an unchecked escalation.
The sheriff said his information came from the very reliable information and, "Nothing he's told us has not come true."
Dupont said he planned to meet with federal prosectutors Friday to determine whether federal conspiracy laws apply.