A Sayre man was arrested over the weekend, accused of plotting to detonate a car bomb at a downtown Oklahoma City bank.
Authorities arrested 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell, Saturday morning, in connection to a plot to bomb the BancFirst branch located in the 100 block of N. Broadway Ave.
Varnell was taken into custody around 1 a.m. after he tried to detonate a van, that he thought was rigged with explosives, in the alley next to the bank.
According to a release issued by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington D.C. with a similar device used in the 1995 OKC bombing, because investigators say he was upset with the government.
When investigators learned of Varnell’s plot, an undercover agent reached out to him and posed as a person who could assist with the plan, the release stated. Authorities say Varnell talked about the BancFirst building being his target and prepared a social media statement to be posted after the “explosion”.
Varnell helped the undercover agent assemble the “device” and loaded it onto a van that he believed was stolen, before driving it from El Reno to the alley beside BancFirst. Authorities say Varnell then dialed a cell phone number that he thought would trigger the explosion.
Varnell has been charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce. If convicted, authorities say Varnell could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and no less than five years. An initial court appearance has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
BancFirst issued the following statement regarding this incident:
BancFirst has been working cooperatively with the FBI. At no time were employees, customers or the general public ever in any danger. We believe our BancFirst downtown Oklahoma City building was a random and convenient selection by the suspect. There is no further threat or reason for concern. We take comfort and our company embraces a deep appreciation and admiration for the men and women of the FBI for their diligent and dedicated work in protecting our nation.
Sen. James Lankford issued a statement on the foiled bombing plot:
I applaud the work of the FBI and local law enforcement for investigating and apprehending a man who sought to commit a terrorist act in Oklahoma City. Our intelligence community and law enforcement work every day to protect our neighborhoods from attacks and terror, and they often do it without the public ever knowing. It is chilling to think that a sympathizer of Timothy McVeigh would want to act on hate, as a tribute to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil before September 11. We’re thankful for the concerned citizens that stepped forward to alert authorities about this man. This is another somber reminder that, as a nation, we must remain vigilant about home-grown extremism and radicalization in our communities.
Sen. Jim Inhofe issued a statement on the foiled bombing plot:
This weekend the FBI, working with local law enforcement, successfully prevented a hateful act of domestic terrorism that could have mirrored the Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing of 1995. I am grateful for the service of state and federal law enforcement who not only foiled the attempted terrorist, but did so without putting the community at risk.
I also appreciate the concerned citizens who exemplified the Oklahoma Standard—looking out for their community by sharing concerns about the alleged perpetrator. It is only by working together as a community that we can continue to prevent future instances of domestic terrorism and extremism.
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum issued a statement on the foiled bombing plot:
Earlier today, law enforcement officials announced the arrest of a man living in Oklahoma who is charged with attempting to bomb BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City.
This is a haunting reminder of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people and wounded countless more. Familiar similarities link these two events.
This makes the mission of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum more relevant today as ever. Our job is to remember and to teach an understanding of the senselessness of violence, especially as a means of effecting government change. We strongly convey the imperative to reject violence.
We are disheartened that a young man who calls Oklahoma home would resort to domestic terrorism, knowing the deep sense of loss still felt by people impacted by the Oklahoma City bombing.
The response of Oklahoma’s public servants and private citizens reflects the sense of unity, compassion, even heroism, that characterized the rescue and recovery efforts following the bombing. Social media has changed the flow of information and this highlights the importance that if everyday citizens See Something, Say Something.
This is a developing story.
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