A man arrested for allegedly planning to detonate a car bomb in Oklahoma City is a schizophrenic whose delusions were encouraged by the FBI, his mother told The Daily Beast.
Feds say Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, planned to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., but then switched his focus to a bank in Oklahoma City. The feds were tipped off to the plot by a confidential source in December, according to the complaint complaint against Varnell released Monday.
"[The source] advised that Varnell was upset with the government and seeking retaliation,” the complaint says.
The source told the FBI that Varnell had joined a "small militia group" and claimed to "have a bunker for when the world (or United States) collapsed." The source claimed to have seen Varnell’s bunker.
"I'm out for blood," Varnell allegedly wrote to the confidential source. "When militias start getting formed I'm going after government officials when I have a team."
But at some point, the target of the bombing changed from the federal reserve building to an Oklahoma bank, supposedly because Varnell decided he didn’t want to kill a lot of people. The alleged plot edged forward. Soon, the source introduced Varnell to an undercover FBI agent. The agent offered to provide Varnell with the explosives for the job, the complaint says.
The complaint says that Varnell told the agent he adhered to the Three Percenter ideology, a far-right, anti-government ideology. Adherents claim that only three percent of the population fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War.
Just after midnight on August 12, Varnell got into a cargo van and drove it into Oklahoma City. He believed the van carried a bomb, according to the complaint. He parked it in at a loading dock next to an Oklahoma City BancFirst building.
Varnell had prepared the vehicle for an explosion and ensured the cellphone to trigger it was on, according to the complaint. Then he and the undercover agent drove several miles from the building.
Varnell allegedly dialed the cell phone, believing it would set off the bomb, and he was arrested minutes later.
Varnell’s mother told The Daily Beast the alleged plot is the latest symptom of Varnell’s schizophrenia. Varnell has been hospitalized six times since 16, Melonie Varnell said, adding he is OK when if he takes medication.
“Without the Haldol, he thinks he's Jesus, he's tried to make gold before, he's chased trolls. He's very mentally ill,” said Melonie.
His mother blamed the FBI for encouraging his delusions.
“I consider this entrapment,” Melonie told The Daily Beast. “They got him to do this. We live two hours from Oklahoma City,” where the alleged target was.
“He has no job, he has no money, he has no vehicle, he has no driver’s license,” she added.
The summer break from college gave Varnell an excuse to be online, where Melonie said extremist groups fed into his paranoia.
“He has all kinds of conspiracy theories in his brain,” she said. “He's tried to bring up Anonymous, he's tried to bring up stuff to us. We do nothing to encourage his theories.”
Varnell’s ex-wife told police he had a “schizophrenic episode” during a 2013 arrest for domestic violence. Varnell wrote in a case document he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorders.
The woman told police Varnell said he would "die at midnight and needed to impregnate her." Varnell then raped her, she told police. The woman said she had called police to stop Varnell from hurting her and himself, and that she did not want to press charges.
Varnell was tried as a youthful offender for domestic strangulation and his wife paid most of his court fees. According to the plea deal, the charges would have been dismissed if Varnell made it to August 2019 without additional violations. (They divorced last year, according to court filings.)
Melonie said that she found out about the bomb plot when the FBI raided their house Saturday morning at 6 am. The FBI broke two security cameras and took her DVR, she said. Now her family is in chaos after the arrest.
“We've done everything possible to keep him at home be able to function a little bit in society, and now our whole family is going to be destroyed because of the good old FBI,” said Melonie. “I don't know what to do.”
A Department of Justice press release described the arrest as the culmination of a domestic terrorism investigation, though no terrorism charges have been filed. Varnell is charged with one count of malicious intended destruction of a building. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.