Marvin Fong / Cleveland Plain Dealer
Five men were arrested in Cleveland, Ohio, after plotting to blow up a bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Monday.
The bridge is located about 15 miles from downtown Cleveland and carries a four-lane state highway connecting Brecksville, Ohio, to Sagamore Hills, Ohio. Some Ohio State students from the Brecksville, Ohio, area said they were alarmed to hear of the alleged attempts to blow up the bridge.
“I was shocked that people would take the time out of their day to try to blow up a bridge in Ohio,” said
Jeff Mancino, a first-year in psychology, whose hometown is about 10 minutes from the bridge. “I first found out about it on Twitter and then I saw the CNN link. You don’t think you’re going to get caught? I mean, it’s kind of dumb.”
Three of the men, who are reportedly self-proclaimed anarchists and part of the Occupy Cleveland movement, were arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force Monday on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce.
Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, are said to have been plotting the explosion for months.
The other men, Connor Stevens, 20, and Joshua Stafford, 23, were arrested with charges pending as of Tuesday night.
In an undercover operation, FBI employees sold the suspects fake explosives after monitoring and taping their conversations over a period of several months. The inert explosives were planted at the base of the bridge when the suspects dialed a code they believed would set the explosives off.
Rachel Sirey, a fourth-year in music education from Brecksville, said she was glad to hear that the FBI was working undercover and was able to hinder the alleged bombing attempts.
“I’m glad that nothing went through and that everything at home is safe,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
The original complaint filed with the Cleveland federal court said the explosion was initially planned to set off on May Day, or May 1, a day dedicated to traditional international workers.
One of the men allegedly told the undercover FBI informant that he had been discussing with others, “violence and destruction to physical property in a variety of ways in order to send a message to corporations and the United States government,” according to multiple reports.
Jared Malvic, a second-year in material science and engineering, said he was shocked when he heard of the incident that was so close to his home.
“Nothing really happens like that in our town,” Malvic said. “It’s usually just little things and I’ve never heard of the FBI having to get involved with anything in the city, so I was just confused, like, ‘What is going on?'”
The group has allegedly been plotting a series of evolving plots over a period of several months.
According to an FBI press release, the group’s initial plot was to use smoke grenades to distract law enforcement officials while they toppled financial institution signs on top of buildings in downtown Cleveland. That plan later evolved into the conspiracy to blow up the bridge.
Later reports of alleged comments from Baxter suggest the explosion was planned as a way to cost the city money by damaging the bridge’s structure and hindering people who need to cross the bridge to get to work.
“I wanted to know why, because it’s just a bridge over a river,” Sirey said. “At first I thought, ‘There’s nothing super important around there.’ But then I was talking to my dad about all the (people) that have to go over the bridge to get to work.”