Man arrested in plot to detonate vehicle bomb in OKC

A man from Sayre, Oklahoma was arrested on Saturday after he intended to blow up a building in downtown OKC>                                                                                     

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, was arrested early Saturday morning in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at BancFirst, 101 N. Broadway, announced Mark A. Yancey, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.


According to a criminal complaint filed Sunday, the FBI arrested Varnell at approximately 1 a.m. after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van he had parked in an alley next to BancFirst. 

 The complaint alleges that Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because he was upset with the government.

The complaint explains that after law enforcement learned of Varnell’s intentions, an undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could assist him.

According to the complaint, Varnell identified BancFirst as the target, prepared a statement to be posted on social media after the explosion, helped assemble the device, helped load it into what he believed was a stolen van, drove the van by himself from El Reno to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City, and dialed a number on a cellular telephone that he believed would trigger the explosion.

Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce.  If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. 

 He is expected to appear in court at 3 p.m. Monday.

The arrest is the culmination of a long-term domestic terrorism investigation involving an undercover operation in which Varnell had been monitored closely for months as the alleged bomb plot developed, authorities said.  The device was actually inert, and the public was not in danger. 

“There was never a concern that our community’s safety or security was at risk during this investigation,” said Kathryn Peterson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oklahoma.

Yancey, the U.S. attorney, said: “I commend the devoted work of the FBI and our state law enforcement partners in ensuring that violent plots of this kind never succeed.”


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