FBI foils 2022 plot by militiamen to “start a war” at the Texas-Mexico border

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FBI agents disrupted a plot by three men — two of whom said they were part of a militia — to travel to the Texas-Mexico border to kill Border Patrol agents and immigrants crossing illegally because they believed the country was being invaded, according to court documents filed in federal courts.

One of the men also called and left a phone message to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to alert him about their plans, saying: “If y’all cannot take care of this border and shut it down then we will be forced to come in and do it ourselves,” according to a criminal complaint. The complaint does not say when he left this message but that he summarized his message to a confidential FBI source on a recorded phone conversation on Oct. 3, 2022.

The men — Bryan C. Perry, 38; Jonathan S. O’Dell, 33; and Paul Faye, 55 — were arrested by FBI agents and face various federal charges in connection to their alleged plot, which authorities say they started organizing in 2022 and planned to carry out in October 2023.

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The most recent arrest was of Faye of Tennessee on Monday. He faces a single charge of being in possession of an unregistered firearm silencer.

In the criminal complaint, the FBI said that Perry had “extensive contact “ with Faye before Faye was arrested. Faye “expressed a desire to travel with Perry and another individual” to the border and “commit acts of violence,” the complaint says.

Perry and O’Dell are also accused of attempting to kill seven federal agents. According to the criminal complaint, as the FBI attempted to serve a search warrant at O’Dell’s home in Missouri, Perry fired approximately 11 shots from a multicaliber rifle at FBI agents.

Perry of Tennessee and O’Dell of Missouri were arrested in late 2022 and were indicted last year by a grand jury on several charges including conspiracy to murder a federal officer, conspiracy to assault a federal officer, attempted murder of a federal officer and assault of a federal officer, according to superseding indictments filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. After their arrests, authorities found six firearms, over 20 magazines, roughly 1,770 rounds of ammunition and other equipment at O’Dell’s residence.

According to the criminal complaint, Perry and O’Dell began talking as early as November 2021 about grievances they had with the federal government. The following year they attempted to recruit other members to their militia group to travel to Washington, D.C., “to stop the madness going on,” the complaint says. It also says that they shared maps of the Capitol and other governmental buildings.

“Basically start a war”

In August of 2022, Perry and O’Dell agreed to go “to war with the border patrol,” according to the superseding indictment. Perry later told a woman he attempted to recruit on TikTok and Instagram that his “intentions are to go down there and basically start a war,” the complaint says.

“I mean, you know I know a lot of people are like, well, we don’t want violence. Well, that’s what it’s gonna take for people to open up their eyes,” Perry told an undercover federal agent over the phone, the complaint says. “I’m goin down there to hold up a rifle. You come across, you’re gonna lose your life.”

According to the criminal complaint, Perry uploaded a TikTok video announcing the group’s plan to travel to the southern border with the intent of “shoot[ing] to kill.” O’Dell indicated in the comment section that they planned to go to Texas on Oct. 2, 2022. In the video, O’Dell appears holding the buttstock of a rifle. In other TikTok videos, Perry blames U.S. Border Patrol agents and said he viewed them as treasonous for allowing migrants to cross the border.

The complaints do not say where on the Texas-Mexico border the men intended to travel. But in Faye’s criminal complaint filed Feb. 2, the FBI said he was in communication with a person from North Carolina who had previously been to Eagle Pass with a militia group called NC Patriot Party and planned to travel back to the border on Jan. 20.

Lawyers representing the three men didn’t respond to an after-business-hours email from The Texas Tribune seeking comment. Both Perry and O’Dell have pleaded not guilty.

Authorities first learned of Perry’s threats to attack the federal government after receiving an anonymous tip in September 2022, according to the complaint.

Perry and O’Dell were members of the self-styled 2nd American Militia, according to an October indictment and made plans to travel to the border to shoot federal agents who opposed them and then take the ammunition and night vision goggles from murdered agents.

At one point, prior to Perry’s arrest, he told an FBI source that he called Abbott.

“I basically told him, I said look, we’ve uh – I am a cofounder of a militia out here in Tennessee and Missouri. Um, you know we’ve-we’ve been watching the news. We know that ya’lls (sic) watched people come across the border that are trafficking drugs,” Perry said, according to the criminal complaint. “You know, it’s not acceptable anymore. If ya’ll cannot take care of this border and shut it down then we will be forced to come in and do it ourselves.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

“We are being invaded”

Faye’s arrest came one day after Abbott hosted Republican governors from across the country in Eagle Pass to double down on his border security tactics, which he has claimed are necessary to defend the state from an “invasion” of migrants. On Thursday, Abbott plans to host another press conference in Eagle Pass, this time with Republican lawmakers from Texas.

In an eight-page criminal complaint, the Justice Department outlined a monthslong relationship between an undercover FBI agent and Faye, which began in March 2023 on the social media platform TikTok.

In December, just over a year after Perry and O’Dell were arrested, the FBI agent and Faye discussed a plan to travel south with unregistered firearms and explosive devices to carry out a plan with militia groups from Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee “to stir up the hornet’s nest” at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Faye discussed his belief that the government was training to take on its citizens, and more specifically, that the federal government was allowing illegal immigrants to enter the United States to help the government ,” the complaint read.

The complaint alleges that Faye told the undercover agent that he could gather necessary gear for their plan, like bullet-proof vests, from deceased individuals “as we go.” Additionally, Faye told undercover agents that he was already in possession of explosive targets and that he had boobytrapped his property in the event law enforcement came to his home, the complaint alleges.

In January, Faye transferred the unregistered silencer to the federal agent as they prepared to travel to the southern border, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee. After Faye’s arrest, law enforcement searched his property in Cunningham, Tennessee and recovered several firearms, a silencer, explosive targets and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, the release stated.

Last year, according to the complaint, Faye asked the undercover agents to train together in person before traveling to the border, saying that the “patriots are going to rise up because we are being invaded. We are being invaded.”

Abbott has repeatedly characterized the high numbers of migrants — many of whom are seeking political asylum — arriving at the Texas-Mexico border as an invasion. His campaign used the term as recently as Wednesday morning in a fundraising email. And lawyers for Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office recently tried to make a legal argument saying Texas is being invaded by “transnational cartels.” However, District Judge David Ezra dismissed Texas’ argument and wrote: “Such a claim is breathtaking.”

Still, Abbott and other Republican leaders in Texas and across the country have doubled down on the use of the phrase, despite demands from. immigrant rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers to stop using rhetoric that could inspire someone to commit violence against immigrants.

In August 2019, a gunman — who railed about an “Hispanic invasion” in a document published online — drove about 700 miles from Allen to El Paso and fatally killed 23 people and injured 22 others at a Walmart. According to the DOJ, the gunman has described himself as “a white nationalist, motivated to kill Hispanics because they were immigrating to the United States.”

Last month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters in Eagle Pass that Texas is being invaded by “murders, molesters, terrorists, rapists, gang members, drug dealers, car jackers, kidnappers” in describing the people crossing the Texas-Mexico border. When asked by a reporter if using such language could inspire another violent attack such as the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Patrick responded saying that is “a silly question.”

“Every time an elected official publicly embraces the rhetoric of the replacement and invasion conspiracy, they are contributing to a climate where someone with hate in their heart and a gun in their hand believes they should take matters into their own hands,” said Zachary Mueller, political director at America’s Voice, a progressive pro-immigration group.

Earlier in January, Abbott was heavily criticized for saying that Texas has used every tool to control the border short of ordering officers to shoot migrants.

“The only thing that we’re not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder,” Abbott said during the Jan. 5 radio interview with Dana Loesch, a former editor at Breitbart News and spokesperson for the National Rifle Association.

​​U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, responded on social media to Abbott’s comments: “I can’t believe I have to say ‘murdering people is unacceptable.’ @GregAbbott_TX. It’s language like yours that left 23 people dead and 22 others injured in El Paso.”

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