The militiamen who plotted to kidnap and execute Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer saw their operation mainly as a backup plan for a much more ambitious "Plan A," prosecutors say. The plan was to assemble 200 armed "Patriots" who would take over the state Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, and then hold televised executions of the state officials they took hostage.
According to a document filed by the Michigan Attorney General's Office this week in response to an attempt by attorneys for one of the men to drastically reduce his bond, the militiamen devised the Capitol takeover plan alongside their schemes to abduct Whitmer from her summer home. At the end, they intended either to kill everyone inside the building or to simply set it aflame with everyone locked inside.
Members of the Wolverine Watchmen, as the plotters called themselves, conducted paramilitary training sessions to prepare for the dual attacks. Many of them had participated in a number of anti-Whitmer protests, calling her a "tyrant" for her COVID-19 pandemic public health measures such as business and school closures. These were protests at which violent rhetoric threatening Whitmer and other officials became common.
During one of the protests on April 30, armed men had attempted to invade the floor of the state House but were prevented from doing so by state police. The militiamen began scheming, thinking of ways to successfully overtake the Capitol building around that time.
The group had organized on social media, primarily Facebook, for their initial recruitment. "Wolverine Watchmen is a group of Patriots to network and assemble and recruit like minded individuals," the statement on their private Facebook page read. "Develop regional QRFs and squad tactics. Only add people you trust no statist, no fudds, no bootlickers and no cops or feds. If you're serious get a wire and message an admin your username."
The group's rules included references to the "Boogaloo," the civil war movement to which the participants all subscribed. One such rule limited membership: "Boojahidden only, No feds, statist, cops, bootlickers or commies or ethnonationalist."
A June 14 paramilitary training session at a property in Munith, Michigan, followed a schedule written out by plotters Pete Musico and Joe Morrison, including "ambush tactics," "driver down situation," and "taking a (possible) hostile vehicle over." It also included medical training sessions.
"Plan A consisted of recruiting 200 men and then storm the Capitol building in Lansing while Congress was in session," the prosecutors' document said. "They were to take hostages, execute tyrants and have it televised. It would take about one week and that no one is coming out alive.
"The secondary plan was to storm the Capitol building in Lansing when Congress was in session. They would then lock the entrances/exits to the structure. They would then set the building on fire."
According to prosecutors, the kidnapping plot arose only after members began to have doubts about the logistical issues regarding their initial plan to invade the Capitol. Musico believed the target was "a fishbowl," and offered up his own "Plan B"—namely, to target politicians in their homes. After a June 28 discussion, the group of plotters began focusing their efforts on following that strategy, with Whitmer as the target.
The document included other revealing details about the plot, focusing primarily on Musico, whose attorneys were attempting to reduce his bond—which a judge had already lowered from $10 million to $100,000—to a mere $20,000:
- At one time, Musico claimed he had thrown a Molotov cocktail into a police officer's home. "He stated he waited outside the back door of the house and planned to shoot the officer when he came out, but ultimately decided not to," prosecutors state. according to the document.
- Musico also claimed that during the April 30 near-takeover event at the Capitol, he had attempted to get a Michigan State Police trooper to touch him at a rally at the Michigan State Capitol in 2020.
- The men also not only discussed targeting law enforcement officers at their home, they undertook tactical paramilitary training designed to confront police. "Put your vest on, gear up and hunt the rich," Musico said, according to the document.
"Pete Musico, during a meeting, addressed the group and gave them an ultimatum: the group was heading toward 'real shit' action which required dedication to the group and cause," the prosecutors stated.
"If they had been training to improve their tactical skills, that was OK, but they needed to leave immediately if they didn't want to be part of what was coming. No one in the group left. … Musico also advised an individual that he was preparing to produce more pounds of C-4 explosives in anticipation of planned events."
One of the plotters—Brian Higgins, 52, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin—has also been fighting the charges in court. Higgins' attorney is fighting his extradition to Michigan because Whitmer—the target of the kidnapping plot—signed the paperwork ordering him brought to the state.
In a court filing in advance of Wednesday's status conference in Columbia County Circuit Court in Wisconsin, Higgins' attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, wrote: "To put it more bluntly, the requisition was signed in an official capacity by someone with a clear, undeniable conflict of interest in the case against Higgins: the Michigan (governor), who as the named alleged victim has a direct and utterly undeniable personal interest in this matter."
Higgins is accused of participating in the Wolverine Watchmen's September field training exercise and discussing the plot with other members. He also accompanied the men in their surveillance of Whitmer's private vacation house near Traverse City, a police affidavit filed in the case claims.
"In particular, Brian Higgins, while on a nighttime surveillance of the Governor's home, provided the use of his night-vision goggles for the surveillance," the affidavit reads. "Additionally, he used a mounted digital dash camera located in his vehicle to record the surveillance of the Governor's home in order to aid in kidnapping plans."
On Thursday, the Wisconsin judge overseeing Higgins' case continued the extradition hearing to mid-December, but denied him release on bail.
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