Troopers: "Charges On Individuals, Not The Militia"
Charging documents reveal conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder began months ago.
Bail was set at $3 million for alleged militia leader Francis "Schaeffer" Cox, of Fairbanks, along with $2 million set for four others accused of plotting to kill Alaska law enforcement officials.
On Thursday the five were taken into custody and face several state charges, including conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Lonnie Vernon, 55, and his wife Karen Vernon, 64, along with "Schaeffer" Cox, 26, and Coleman Barney, 36, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and misconduct involving weapons, along with first- and second-degree hindering prosecution.
In a nearly four-hour standoff in Fairbanks Thursday night, Alaska State Troopers, the FBI, the U.S Marshal’s Service and the Fairbanks Police Department arresting the five alleged conspirators.
"Essentially through our investigation we learned that plans had been developed to harm or kill [and] kidnap troopers and also some Fairbanks-area judges," said Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters.
Charging documents allege the conspiracy to commit these crimes began months ago with the start of a collection of dozens of assault rifles, pistols and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
"We learned that there were caches of weapons, illegal weapons, and extensive surveillance conducted on troopers and judges to where we felt it was necessary to apply to the courts to get warrants for their arrests," Peters said.
Lonnie Vernon is the only person facing federal charges. According to the indictment, Vernon threatened to kill U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline in retaliation on his ruling in a recent tax case, which Vernon and his wife claim was unfair. The government planned to take their home due to more than $166,000 in unpaid federal taxes.
According to charging documents, "Schaeffer" Cox, an admitted militia leader and founder of several local groups including the Second Amendment Task Force and the Alaska Peacemaker’s Militia, told a group at an unnamed meeting, "If they [the government] takes one of our homes, we’ll burn two of theirs," then told his command staff they needed to be ready to kill.
Troopers claim the arrest had nothing to do with the Alaska Peacekeeper's Militia based in Fairbanks.
"We have charges on individuals, not the militia. This is not about a militia," Peters said.