FBI learned of coronavirus-inspired bomb plotter through radicalized US Army soldier

Facebook(KANSAS CITY) -- The suspected white supremacist who plotted to bomb a hospital facing the coronavirus crisis was in touch with a then-active U.S. Army soldier who wanted to launch his own attack on a major American news network and discussed targeting a Democratic presidential candidate, according to an FBI alert summarizing the case.

On Tuesday, as 36-year-old Timothy Wilson was on the verge of trying to detonate a car bomb at a Kansas City-area medical center, agents from the FBI’s field office in Missouri attempted to arrest him. But shots were fired, fatally wounding Wilson, according to the FBI.

Ahead of Tuesday’s incident, Wilson “espoused white supremacist ideology” and “made a threat that if any agent attempted to [search his property] they should ‘bring a lot of body bags,” said the FBI alert, distributed to state and local law enforcement agencies in the region on Wednesday.

The FBI alert also said Wilson had “shared instructions on how to make an [improvised explosive device] with another ... Domestic Terrorism (DT) subject” from near Kansas City.

ABC News has identified that other domestic terrorism “subject” as Jarrett Smith, who was arrested in September 2019 while still stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, as an active member of the U.S. Army.

According to charging documents filed at the time in Topeka, Kansas, Smith allegedly planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with the violent far-right group Azov Battalion; suggested targeting then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke; proposed bombing the headquarters of a still-unidentified news network; and distributed bomb-making tips online.

Smith has since pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing information that relates to weapons of mass destruction, and he is awaiting sentencing.

On Wednesday, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Wilson had been on the FBI’s radar for more than a year, indicating that the FBI’s probe of Smith led authorities to Wilson months before he sought to take advantage of the unfolding coronavirus crisis.

“With the current COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson decided to accelerate his plan to detonate a [car bomb] to cause severe harm and mass casualties,” the FBI said in its alert. “Wilson may have also believed the additional stress on society posed by the COVID-19 pandemic provided unique opportunities to exploit.”

The FBI believes other extremists inside the U.S. homeland may similarly “aspire to capitalize on the current health crisis,” but it is “unlikely” any of their actions “will rise to the level of terroristic actions like Wilson,” the alert issued Wednesday said.

During a conference call with police chiefs from across the nation on Friday, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for Infrastructure Protection, Brian Harrell, and the department’s liaison to state and local law enforcement, John Hill, tried to assure the chiefs that the federal government is doing all it can to protect “critical infrastructure” in their cities and towns, including hospitals.

But even before coronavirus became a crisis inside America, Harrell offered this stark assessment: “Based off of current events and the frequency of events, I am convinced that this country is becoming more and more violent every single day.”

“I live my life as if the worst day is right around the corner,” he told Congress last month, adding that the U.S. government is “focused on preparedness and protection.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Check Also

Son pays tribute to ‘blue-collar’ dad who doctors say died due to COVID-19

iStock(NEW YORK) -- John Pijanowski was not able to be with his dad, Donald John Pijanowski, in his final moments because doctors said the elder Pijanowski had COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.Pijanowski, a University of Arkansas professor, was also sep...