March 29, 2010 in Nation/World

FBI stages multiple raids in Midwest

Mike Householder Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Michigan State Police guard a home, center rear, in Clayton, Mich., on Sunday after an FBI raid of a home of a suspected militia leader.
(Full-size photo)

ADRIAN, Mich. – The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people, and a militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one raid was a Christian militia group.

Federal warrants were sealed, but a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of those arrested face gun charges and officials are pursuing other suspects. Some of the suspects were expected in court today.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold confirmed the FBI had been working in two southeast Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said agents arrested two people Saturday after raids in two Ohio towns.

A third arrest made in northeast Illinois on Sunday stemmed from a raid Saturday just over the border in northwest Indiana, both part of an ongoing investigation led by the FBI in Michigan, according to a statement from agents in Illinois.

It wasn’t clear what prompted the raids, but Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group. They said their property in southeast Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Lackomar.

“They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide,” Lackomar said. “My team leader said, ‘No thanks.’ ”

The team leader was cooperating with the FBI, Lackomar said. He said SMVM wasn’t affiliated with Hutaree, but a handful of Hutaree members twice attended monthly training sessions with his group that focus on survival training and shooting practice.

Law enforcement swarmed a rural, wooded property Saturday evening near Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit, neighbors said. Two ramshackle trailers sat side-by-side on the property.

Phyllis Brugger, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said some people who lived there were known as having ties to militia. They would shoot guns and often wore camouflage, according to Brugger and her daughter, Heidi Wood.

“Everybody knew they were militia,” Brugger said. “You don’t mess with them.”

George Ponce, 18, who works at a pizzeria next door to a home raided in Hammond, Ind., said he and a few co-workers stepped outside for a break Saturday night and saw a swarm of law enforcement.

“I heard a yell, ‘Get back inside!’ and saw a squad member pointing a rifle at us,” Ponce said. “They told us the bomb squad was going in, sweeping the house looking for bombs.”

He estimated that agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.

In Ohio, one of the raids occurred at Bayshore Estates, a well-kept trailer park in Sandusky, a small city on Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland. Neighbors said the man taken into custody lived in a trailer on a cul-de-sac with his wife and two young children.

Park manager Terry Mills said authorities blocked off the street for about an hour Saturday night.

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