RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Three North Carolina men fearing a government takeover and martial law stockpiled weapons, ammunition and tactical gear while attempting to rig home-made explosives, according to charges announced by the Justice Department on Monday.
The men from Gaston County, near Charlotte, were arrested by federal authorities on Saturday after more than a month's investigation.
Walter Eugene Litteral, 50, Christopher James Barker, 41, and Christopher Todd Campbell, 30, are accused of stockpiling guns and ammunition, as well as attempting to manufacture pipe bombs and live grenades from military surplus "dummy" grenades, according unsealed criminal complaints released Monday.
The close to 60 pages of information compiled by federal authorities since July include allegations Litteral planned to makes explosives out of tennis balls covered in nails and coffee cans filled with ball bearings.
According to the documents, both Litteral and Campbell spoke openly about their opposition to Jade Helm 15, a series of ongoing special forces training missions in several Southwestern states that has drawn suspicion from residents who fear it is part of a planned military takeover.
In addition to ammunition for a long-range .338 caliber rifle, the authorities said Litteral purchased hand-held radios, Kevlar helmets, body armor and face masks in preparation for an armed resistance to the feared military occupation.
Litteral was also planning to purchase an assault rifle along with ammunition for Barker, whose past convictions for possession of stolen goods and cocaine barred him from possessing a gun, according to the documents.
The FBI began its investigation in mid-June after receiving a tip about Litteral and Barker attempting to make homemade explosives, and later began investigating Campbell based on similar information that he was attempting to reconstruct grenades.
Litteral was quoted in the documents calling his planned homemade explosives "game changers," and authorities allege he planned to test the devices with Barker in Shelby, North Carolina.
The federal conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, Campbell has been charged with a separate firearms charge punishable by 10 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
In addition to the FBI, agencies assisting in the investigation include the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Air Marshal Service as well as local police in Charlotte, Belmont, Mount Holly and Gastonia.
The men will remain in federal custody pending the outcome of detention hearings scheduled for Thursday. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.