SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah militia group leader accused of trying to blow up a federally owned cabin in Arizona talked about his plans to go on the offensive and strike back by damaging government buildings and vehicles in a secretly recorded video played in court Thursday.
The video, taken in March by undercover FBI agents who infiltrated the group, was presented by federal prosecutors during a hearing in Salt Lake City in which William Keebler was requesting a judge let him out of jail pending trial. A judge has yet to rule.
“They’re going to know we’ve had enough,” says Keebler in the video, standing in an RV in a remote part of Utah during a field training mission. “Some of our strikes are going to be loud and dangerous and damaging.”
During the clips played, Keebler said that he didn’t want to hurt anybody, but told his group members he wanted to “put the fear of God” in government officials. He advised them to be prepared for a possible gunfight, said he had a hit list of government informants and added: “We’re going to start (expletive) people up.”
Keebler, 57, is accused of scouting a mosque, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management office and U.S. military facilities as possible targets before choosing the rural Arizona cabin. He was angry about public land policies he saw as federal overreach, prosecutors contend.
Keebler is facing one count of attempting to damage federal property and one count of carrying a firearm during a crime of violence in a grand jury indictment handed down in June. Each charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, and Keebler could face up to life in prison if convicted on the second count alone.
Keebler has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He was arrested after a June 21 incident at a Bureau of Land Management cabin in the northern Arizona area of Mt. Trumbull when Keebler triggered a remote device he believed set off an explosive device at the door of the cabin.
The device Keebler allegedly set off didn’t do any damage because it was inert, built by undercover FBI agents who had infiltrated his small group that otherwise amounted to about four people.
His attorney, Lynn Donaldson, questioned why the FBI never tried to steer Keebler away from doing illegal activity and why they planted an explosions specialist in the militia group. Donaldson has said previously that the allegations about other targets are exaggerated and what he’s accused of may have been closer to civil disobedience.
Keebler’s friend Lor Potts has said he isn’t violent and the agents set him up, encouraging the use of explosives
FBI agent Steve Daniels, who led the two-year investigation of Keebler, said during the hearing that Keebler created his own militia group to prepare for the next armed confrontation with federal agents after he came back from the a 2014 armed standoff with federal officials at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch over unpaid grazing fees.
The federal agency’s investigation of Keebler began after the standoff, where Keebler served in a high-ranking command post, Daniels said.
Keebler held regular meetings and field training sessions, and he had scouted “bugout” locations in rural Utah, he said. Keebler also had an AR-15-style gun and a handgun, Daniels said.
Keebler told undercover FBI agents posing as members of the group he would “slit their throats” if he found out they were government informants, Daniels said. Keebler also talked about killing Muslims and refugees and going to the U.S.-Mexico border to kill drug smugglers.