(CNN) — “Captain Hutaree,” his wife and two sons planned with other militia members to kill a law enforcement official to draw the officer’s colleagues to the funeral, authorities say. Then, according to an indictment unsealed Monday, the militia planned to attack the funeral procession to kick off its war against the U.S. government.
Members of the Hutaree militia — whose Web site says it is preparing for end times to “keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive” — have been indicted on five counts, including seditious conspiracy and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.
Federal authorities allege militia members had declared war against law enforcement and “foot soldiers” of the federal government. They had conducted “military-style training” in Lenawee County, Michigan, about 35 miles northwest of Toledo, Ohio, since 2008, the indictment said.
The group’s Web site outlines the militia’s philosophy: “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment. The only thing on Earth to save the testimony and those who follow it are the members of the testimony, till the return of Christ in the clouds.”
Hutaree members believe, according to the indictment, that their fight would “serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising against the government.”
The government alleges that, in preparation for such an uprising, the militia acquired firearms, ammunition, explosives, uniforms, communication devices, vehicles and medical supplies.
The militia also conducted military-style drills, including explosives and firearms training, as well as “close-quarter battle drills.” Members also prepared defensive fighting positions, including “ambush kill zones” and storage bunkers, the indictment said.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade explained the federal raid’s timing in a statement announcing the indictment.
“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time.”
The group is charged with five counts, including seditious conspiracy and attempts to use weapons of mass destruction, which refers to the allegation in the indictment that Hutaree members planned to use roadside bombs.
If convicted, the suspects could face life in prison, the maximum penalty for the weapons of mass destruction charge.
The Hutaree is one of 127 armed militias in the US, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Ala., that tracks hate groups nationwide. That number has increased 200 percent since 2008, when there were 42, SPLC says.
There is “no question” the catalyst was President Obama’s election, says Heidi Beirich, the center’s director of research. A similar upswing took place after President Clinton’s election in 1993. Militias and the antigovernment groups that spawn them often become more active when the federal government turns more liberal.
“A major shift to the left certainly helped” in both cases, Ms. Beirich says.
The economic meltdown and the growth of minorities such as Latinos are also a factor, she adds.
The Hutaree is unique because it interacted with militia groups outside Michigan, notes Beirich. Many groups the size of the Hutaree tend to be insular and segregated from larger groups. The Hutaree, however, had 350 MySpace members despite its apparently small membership.
On its website, the Hutaree uses Christian terminology and Bible quotes that position it as a military organization prepared to confront an Antichrist. “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.… We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t,” a passage reads.
The site’s homepage includes a picture of 17 men and women posing in camouflage uniforms and brandishing assault weapons.
The accused comprise: David Brian Stone; his wife, Tina Stone; sons Joshua Matthew Stone and David Brian Stone Jr.; Joshua Clough; Michael Meeks; Thomas Piatek; Kristopher Sickles; and Jacob Ward.
“Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing or advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a report, “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism.”
The law center also defines Patriot groups as “militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose ‘one-world government’ on liberty-loving Americans.”