Homeland Security

Hate-Crimes Indictment Returned Against Minnesota Mosque Bombing Suspects

Moultrie County Sheriff's deputies transport Michael McWhorter to the Federal Courthouse in Urbana, Ill., on March 21, 2018. (Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette via AP)

The Justice Department today announced a five-count federal indictment on federal civil-rights and hate-crime violations against three men accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque last August.

An improvised explosive device was detonated outside the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., at about 5 a.m. on Aug. 5, damaging an imam’s office. Five people were inside the center at the early hour but there were no injuries. Sebastian Gorka, who at the time was a White House national security advisor, told MSNBC afterward that President Trump had not commented on the attack because “we’ve had a series of crimes committed, alleged hate crimes, by right-wing individuals in the last six months, that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left.”

In March, Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 22, all of Clarence, Ill., were arrested on weapons charges in connection with the bombing. Hari is a former sheriff’s deputy and gun-store owner who ran a group called the “White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia.” According to court documents, McWhorter told investigators that Hari came up with the bombing idea in order to “scare [Muslims] out of the country.” Hours before his March arrest, Hari posted online that he was planning a protest tied “to the Deep State activities such as mass data collection and the attempt of the FBI to wiretap the Trump campaign and interfere in the election.”

Today’s indictment alleges that the trio of defendants rented a pickup in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and drove to Bloomington, buying fuel along the way that they poured into a small container. Prosecutors say Morris broke a window at the Islamic center and threw the gas bomb inside, followed by McWhorter tossing a pipe bomb inside that, upon detonation, ignited the fuel container. Hari drove the truck, said the indictment.

A tip from a confidential source led to the arrest of the three men. The new indictment notes that McWhorter said they didn’t intend to kill anyone but wanted to send a message of “show them, hey, you’re not welcome here.”

“These three defendants allegedly plotted and executed a plan designed specifically to spread fear and threaten a fundamental right afforded to all, the freedom of religion,” said U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald in a statement. “In spite of the destructive and violent act alleged in the indictment, our communities have found strength in taking a unified stand against the attack. My office and our law enforcement partners are committed to upholding the laws that protect the civil rights of all Americans.”