CUYAHOGA FALLS — Police say a Cleveland man arrested Friday in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park was recruiting accomplices for a plot to kill law enforcement officers.
According to U.S. Sixth District Court for the Northern District of Ohio records, 20-year-old Christian S. Ferguson was charged Tuesday with attempted kidnapping after Cuyahoga Falls police filed a first-degree felony conspiracy to commit aggravated murder charge against Ferguson the day before.
"We’re not going to have any additional information at this time. There’s some ongoing stuff," Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said Tuesday morning.
According to an affidavit the FBI filed with the district court, someone contacted the FBI in early April about an individual identified as "CF-Discord" allegedly posting online that he wanted "to call in a false in-progress call to the police in order to lure law enforcement to a remote location where they could be robbed of their weapons and body armor and possibly killed."
The affidavit states that in screenshots provided to the FBI, "these statements discuss tactical options for killing multiple targets and disposing of their bodies via arson" and it is believed "these communications expressed an intent to use a rifle to kidnap, rob and, possibly during the course of the kidnapping, kill law enforcement officers."
In one statement, Ferguson allegedly wrote, "Either we can subdue them or we preform a sync shot. If you shoot, shoot to kill because they will. If we can keep 1 or 2 alive to get answers great but it’s not an objective."
The possibility of using a combination of bleach and ammonia as a weapon against officers was also mentioned in statements.
The affidavit says it was subsequently learned that "CF-Discord" was on a vanity license plate of a 2014 Ford Mustang that Ferguson was allegedly driving when he led police on a high-speed chase in Indiana following a traffic stop this past July. Ferguson crashed the car and was arrested, says the affidavit.
The affidavit says the FBI believes Ferguson had formed or was trying to form a militia group called "The 75 Spartans."
The affidavit said Ferguson began making plans in an online chatroom with two other individuals identified only as "Discord-1" and "Discord-2." The FBI was able to insert two other unidentified individuals pretending to be supporters into the planning, first in the chatroom and then in person with Ferguson, with conversations recorded.
They had a meeting with Ferguson at Camp Belden Wildlife Area in Lorain County, during which Ferguson allegedly brought an AR-15 rifle with ammunition and expressed a desire to obtain a semi-automatic pistol and explosives.
On Friday, Ferguson allegedly met with the two individuals in the national park for a "dry run." The affidavit says the FBI believes the park was chosen for the operation with the aim of targeting park rangers. Ferguson made a hoax call to test law enforcement response while at the park, according to the affidavit, and after seeing four rangers respond, he allegedly stated his belief that if that many officers responded when they carried out the ambush plan, they would likely have to kill them. The affidavit said Ferguson discussed the plan in detail until he was arrested in a parking lot at a little after 6 p.m.
According to court records, Ferguson was arraigned Tuesday morning and Stow Municipal Court Judge Lisa Coates ordered him held on a $1 million bond. Coates then dismissed the charge at the request of a city prosecutor due to a federal arrest warrant for Ferguson. In a press release issued Tuesday, the FBI said Ferguson was released into federal custody that morning and he had an initial court appearance scheduled for the afternoon. He was also scheduled for a detention hearing on Friday at 2 p.m.
A complaint police filed with the municipal court alleges that Ferguson "did plan and recruit another person or persons to lure law enforcement officer or officers to a known location to facilitate the law enforcement officer or officers murder…"
According to the complaint, Ferguson was arrested in a wooded area along Truxell Road in Peninsula with an FBI SWAT team present.
In the press release, the FBI said that Cuyahoga Falls police, the city prosecutor’s office and national park rangers also took part in the investigation.
An attorney for Ferguson could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.