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Indiana man among 3 charged with conspiring to attack power grids 'in the name of white supremacy'

department of justice DOJ
Posted at 3:18 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 08:18:24-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A West Lafayette man was one of three who pled guilty to a federal charge after they conspired to attack power grids in the country "all in the name of white supremacy," according to the Department of Justice.

Jonathan Allen Frost, 24, of West Lafayette and Katy, Texas, Christopher Brenner Cook, 20, of Columbus, Ohio, and Jackson Matthew Sawall, 22, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

According to a press release from the DOJ, court documents show the three met in 2019 online and began to create a plan to attack a power grid. As part of the recruitment process, Cook asked literacy questions and circulated a list of books promoting white supremacy and Neo-Nazism.

"As part of the conspiracy, each defendant was assigned a substation in a different region of the United States," the press release read. "The plan was to attack the substations, or power grids, with powerful rifles. The defendants believed their plan would cost the government millions of dollars and cause unrest for Americans in the region. They had conversations about how the possibility of the power being out for many months could cause war, even a race war, and induce the next Great Depression."

In February 2020, the three met in Columbus, Ohio, and Frost gave Cook an AR-47 the two took to a shooting range to train, according to the release.

Swall and Cook spray-painted a swastika flag under a bridge at a park with the caption "Join the Front," according to the release. They had other plans for additional propaganda in Ohio, but those were cut short when they were pulled over.

But Cook and Frost continued their plans and attempted to recruit juveniles when they stayed with them in March 2020 in Texas, according to the release.

“The defendants in this case wanted to attack regional power substations and expected the damage would lead to economic distress and civil unrest,” Timothy Langan, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, said in the release. “These individuals wanted to carry out such a plot because of their adherence to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist views. When individuals move from espousing particular views to planning or committing acts of violence the FBI will investigate and take action to stop their plans. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our communities.”

The three also expressed their commitment to dying if they were caught by law enforcement to further their mission, according to the release.

They each face a maximum of 15 years in prison.

In February, the Department of Homeland Security issued the fifth bulletin regarding the "continued heightened threat environment" across the country.