OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Illinois man with a long history of mental illness has been charged with plotting to attack dozens of churches after a hotel maintenance worker in Oklahoma spotted the makings of Molotov cocktails in a trash bin and alerted police.
Gregory Arthur Weiler II, 23, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., has been charged under a strict Oklahoma anti-terrorism law put in place after the federal building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995. The law makes terrorism hoaxes a crime as well as any effort to plan or help plan an act of terrorism.
Weiler was arrested Thursday after a worker at a motel in Miami, Okla., spotted bottles and other suspicious items in a garbage bin, according to a police affidavit.
Officers found bomb-making materials in Weiler’s room along with torn bits of paper that, when assembled, contained directions for making Molotov cocktails, a list of 48 local churches, a hand-drawn map of the churches, and an outline of a plan to plant bombs.
Weiler has been held without bond on charges of threatening to use an explosive or incendiary device and violating the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act. Online court records indicate he has applied for a court-appointed attorney and is due in court on Oct. 22.
According to an affidavit filed by Det. Jeff Frazier, a maintenance worker alerted Miami police after noticing a pile of brown bottles with cloth wicks attached by duct tape in a trash bin at the Legacy Inn and Suites, which sits just off a major interstate. A funnel and 5-gallon red gasoline can also had been dumped in the bin.
While background checks were being done on the hotel’s 18 guests, the maintenance worker accidentally walked into Weiler’s room and saw Weiler with similar items and a Walmart receipt showing the purchase of other items, the affidavit said.
Police found pieces of paper in the trash with details of the plot, plans to videotape the bombings and the words: “Try to get away with it … maybe a plan out of town?”
Weiler’s family said he has a long history of mental illness, and Miami Police Chief George Haralson said his answers during questioning ranged from rambling to coherent.
Haralson said it wasn’t clear whether Weiler posed a real threat to churches and the community.
“He had the means and the ability to carry this out,” he said. “How does one assess the threat?”
Weiler’s parents both committed suicide, and Weiler has battled drug addiction and “a lot of mental illnesses” that led to a suicide attempt in the eighth grade, said his cousin Johnny Meyers.
Weiler has been admitted to mental hospitals multiple times, but “with his medication, he was perfectly fine and functional,” Meyers said. He said family members in suburban Chicago believe Weiler must have stopped taking his medication and planned to go to Oklahoma to see him.
Meyers, whose parents cared for Weiler and his siblings, said his cousin had been out of touch for several years after leaving Illinois.
A pastor at a homeless shelter operated by a church in suburban Kansas City, Mo., said Weiler lived there for about six months within the past year.
Doug Perry said Weiler showed no violent tendencies and was active in the group’s food pantry and various ministries, but he was clearly troubled. Among other things, he blamed himself for his parents’ deaths, Perry said.
“I knew he was in a bad place,” the minister said. He said he last saw Weiler about three months ago, when he left to take a roofing job in Houston.
“We really, really tried hard to love Greg and put up with his sort of sullen detachment,” said Perry, pastor of The Church of Liberty in Liberty, Mo. “We poured a whole lot of love, a whole lot of time, a whole lot of prayer into trying to help him. I grieve because I really do love the kid.”
Perry’s church opposes denominational divisions and advocates for one Christian church in each community.
“We’re supposed to be ONE Body and we’re supposed to be about JESUS,” its website says. “We’re not supposed to split off and let theologies and philosophies of Man and personal grudges divide us into little pieces.”
Perry said his beliefs are based on Christian teachings and his church does not advocate physical violence or the destruction of buildings. He said it would not support any plan Weiler had to harm churches.
“We’ve never advocated any kind of violence at all,” he said. “This has nothing to do with physical violence.”
Back in Oklahoma, youth pastor Chris Carlisle of First Baptist Church of Miami, said the community in the northeast corner of the state is usually very safe and Weiler’s arrest hadn’t caused great alarm.
“We haven’t changed anything,” Carlisle said. “We just pray for him that God would do a work in his life. We know that God has a different plan for his life.”
Associated Press writer Don Babwin contributed to this story from Chicago.