PUBLISHED BY CNBC ON JAN 27 2021
A California man charged with possessing five pipe bombs talked about targeting Democrats and the social media giants Twitter and Facebook, as part of a discussion about going “to war” to ensure former President Donald Trump remained in the White House.
“I want to blow up a democratic building so bad,” the man, Ian Benjamin Rogers of Napa County, wrote in a text message detailed in a criminal complaint filed in federal court for the Northern District of California. The complaint described a large array of firearms, ammunition, bomb-making equipment and warfare manuals found in his possession.
“The democrats need to pay,” wrote Rogers, a married father of two, who owns British Auto Repair of the Napa Valley.
In another text message, Rogers said he was “thinking sac office first target,” which an FBI agent said is suspected of being the Sacramento office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“Then maybe bird and face offices,” the 44-year-old wrote, according to the complaint.
“Sad it’s come to this but I’m not going down without a fight … These commies need to be told what’s up.”
The agent said the text appeared to reference Twitter, whose logo is a blue bird, and Facebook, “because both social media platforms had locked Trump’s accounts to prevent him from sending messages on those platforms” on the heels of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
Rogers in another text, which apparently referred to Trump being the 45th president, wrote, “I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will.”
Rogers, during an interview with FBI agents, “admitted that he had built the pipe bombs, but said they were for entertainment purposes only,” the complaint said.
But the complaint said those and other text messages indicated that Rogers believed, falsely, that Trump won the 2020 presidential election and indicated “his intent to attack Democrats and places associated with Democrats in an effort to ensure Trump remained in office.”
“I further believe that the messages evince Rogers’s intent to engage in acts of violence himself locally if there was not an organized ‘war’ to prevent Joe Biden from assuming the presidency,” the FBI agent wrote.
The agent noted that Rogers, in a Jan. 10 text message, wrote, “We can attack Twitter or the democrats you pick … I think we can attack either easily.”
When the person he was texting suggested in response, “Let’s go after Soros” — the well-known liberal investor George Soros — Rogers replied that Twitter or Democrats would be “easy right now” while “Soros” would require a “road trip,” the complaint said.
Rogers, who is being held on $5 million bond on state weapons charges, has yet to appear in San Francisco federal court to face a charge there of unlawful possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Rogers’ lawer, Jess Raphael, said that a “disgruntled former employee” who had been fired by Rogers prompted the criminal investigation.
“The tipster had sent a handwritten document to the FBI in September, which they investigated and decided it had ‘no nexus to terrorism’ and decided that no charges would be filed,” Raphael said in an email to CNBC.
“Apparently dissatisfied, the tipster sent a copy of his letter to the Napa Sheriffs in October, who started an investigation,” the lawyer said. “Nothing was done about it until January 15th, after the Capitol riot. Why they did nothing for months, I do not know.”
Raphael called Rodgers a “family man and a valued community member.” The attorney also said, “I have 36 letters attesting to his character for non-violence.”
“He was a strong adherent of President Trump and a gun collector,” Raphael said.
A person who answered the phone at Rogers’ repair shop declined to comment, saying “an attorney advised us not to talk to reporters.”
The federal criminal complaint said that during Jan. 15 raids on Rogers’ home and business, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the Napa Special Investigations Bureau found a large gun safe at his business, which contained several guns and the five pipe bombs.
Pipe bombs as shown in an FBI criminal complaintSource: FBI
Other items found in the safe included materials used to make destructive devices, including black powder, pipes and end caps, the complaint said.
Authorities also found manuals including “The Anarchist Cookbook,” “U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook,” “Homemade C-4: A Recipe for Survival,” “U.S. Army Special Forces Guide to Unconventional Warfare” and the Army’s “Guerrilla Warfare Handbook.”
A Nazi flag also was found in his safe, according to a prosecutor.
In all, authorities seized 49 firearms from his home and business, including about two dozen ammunition boxes containing thousands of rounds of ammunition, the complaint said.
One of the firearms is “what appears to be a kit-built replica MG-42 belt-fed machine gun, appear to be capable of firing fully automatic,” the complaint said.
The MG-42 during World War II was German made and used by Nazi troops.
A sticker on a vehicle of Rogers’ has a symbol associated with the anti-government group the Three Percenters, according to the criminal complaint.
Rogers is not charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters who launched a violent but botched effort to get Congress to reject the election of Joe Biden as president. Five people died in connection with that riot, including a Capitol police officer beaten by people in the mob.
The FBI is continuing to search for people who left two pipe bombs outside the national headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees on the same day as that riot.
Raphael, the lawyer for Rogers, said in his email that “the so-called pipe bombs were small pipes filled with gunpowder used for filling bullets, topped with caps, all of which is normal hardware store stuff.”
“They were detonated by the Sheriffs inside tires stacked outside Mr. Rogers’ auto repair shop,” Raphael said. “They did not even seem to damage the tires, from what I saw in the newspaper photos. All of his gun collection and the so called pipe bombs were kept in a large, thick metal gun safe.”
The lawyer also said that even the tipster who had notified law enforcement about Rogers had told “told the sheriff’s investigators that Mr. Rogers was not a member of any militia or hate group, nor did he espouse extremist views.”
Raphael also said that he believed the Napa Sheriffs Department had blatantly misused the bail process by submitting a request for Rogers’ bond to be significantly increased with a claim that he was likely to flee the jurisdiction.
“The entirety of their declaration concerned weapons and speech, none of which had anything to do with a threat of flight,” the lawyer said.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment. Facebook had no immediate comment.