By Terry Odenigbo
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The FBI believes authorities disrupted a terrorism attack that was being planned in a small western Minnesota city when they arrested a man after converging on a mobile home that contained Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms, the agency said Monday.
Buford Rogers, 24, of Montevideo, was arrested Friday and charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He remained in federal custody Monday and it was not clear if he had an attorney.
“The FBI believed there was a terror attack in its planning stages, and we believe there would have been a localized terror attack, and that’s why law enforcement moved quickly to execute the search warrant on Friday to arrest Mr. Rogers,” FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said Monday.
Rogers appeared in court Monday wearing a construction company T-shirt, jeans and work boots. He answered “yes sir” and “no sir” to questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung.
Leung ordered Rogers held pending a detention hearing Wednesday, citing “serious concerns” raised in the criminal complaint.
Loven declined to elaborate about the location of the alleged target, other than to say it was believed to be in Montevideo, a city of about 5,000 people about 130 miles west of Minneapolis. He also declined to say whether Rogers was believed to be acting alone or as part of a group, or if other arrests were expected.
“This is a very active investigation,” he said. He added that at this point, authorities are “looking at this from a domestic terrorism standpoint.”
Loven said the pending investigation prohibits him from getting into details about Rogers’ possible political or religious views, but he said the FBI is confident in calling this a “terror” situation.
“We had information which indicated that Mr. Rogers was involved in a plot to conduct terror activities in and around the Montevideo area,” he said.
In a news release Monday, the FBI said it believed “the lives of several local residents were potentially saved” by the search and arrest, and said “several guns and explosive devices were discovered.” The agency said the alleged terror plot was discovered through analysis of intelligence gathered by local, state and federal authorities.
“Cooperation between the FBI and its federal, state, and local partners enabled law enforcement to prevent a potential tragedy in Montevideo,” Christopher Warrener, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Minneapolis, said in the release.
According to a federal affidavit obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, FBI agents from the domestic terrorism squad searched the property at the mobile home park in Montevideo and discovered the Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms. The affidavit said Buford was there at the time of the search, and one firearm recovered from Buford’s residence was a Romanian AKM assault rifle.
In an interview with authorities, Rogers admitted firing the weapon on two separate occasions at a gun range in Granite Falls, the affidavit said. Rogers has a past conviction for felony burglary and is not allowed to have a firearm.
Rogers is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court Monday.
Rogers’ 2011 felony burglary conviction stems from an incident in Lac qui Parle County. He also has a 2009 misdemeanor conviction for dangerous handling of a weapon in Hennepin County, as well as other criminal violations, according to online court records.
Dustin Rathbun, who lives next door to Rogers’ home, said he saw Friday’s raid and arrest. He said he didn’t know the family well because he didn’t see them outside much.
Rathbun said the only thing that stood out was he and other neighbors noticed a few months ago the family was flying an upside-down flag from the side of their mobile home. He said the owners of the park asked them to take it down.