HAMMOND, Ind. – An Indiana man who claimed to run an anarchist group that commanded a couple to kill two Las Vegas police officers had never heard of the pair before the shootings, but his threats to blow up a courthouse and kill judges in the same boastful Facebook posting were taken seriously by authorities, an FBI agent testified Monday.
The testimony helped convince an Indiana magistrate judge to hold Samuel Bradbury without bond on charges of willfully threatening the use of explosive materials and to extort and threaten interstate communication. If convicted on both counts, the 22-year-old from Pine Village could face up to 15 years in prison.
Investigators found no evidence that 765 Anarchists, the group Bradbury claimed to lead, existed or that he had even heard of Jerad and Amanda Miller, who formerly lived in Lafayette, Indiana, before they killed two police officers and another person before dying in a shootout in early June, FBI agent Troy Wohlfert testified.
But when searching the home where Bradbury lived with his parents, police found three bags of aluminum powder and three bags of black iron oxide, Wohlfert said. The substances can be combined to make thermite, an incendiary device, and the only thing missing was something to ignite it, he said.
Bradbury said in the Facebook post that he would destroy the Tippecanoe County courthouse "in a blaze of glory," and that his group had gathered enough thermite and explosives "to cause extreme damage to the county's various office equipment, including police cars and buildings."
Bradbury's attorney noted that his client also wrote in his Facebook post that his comments were meant as satire. "Just to let everyone know: this is complete satire and an exercise of whether or not free speech still exists in America," Bradbury wrote as part of the post.
But the judge wasn't convinced.
"I think there's reasonable evidence that these threats were real. We don't have to accept his disclaimer," Magistrate Andrew Rodovich said during the 30-minute hearing Monday.
West Lafayette police were informed on June 21 that Bradbury had posted a Facebook message two days earlier saying he ran a group called the 765 Anarchists that had kicked the Millers out of the group because they "were losers" and confidential informants for police, according to court documents.
"I hadn't heard from him since that event, but some of our comrades gave the command and that's why Jerad and Amanda Miller killed those cops in Las Vegas," the post says.
Bradbury also wrote that, "the 765 Anarchists are looking to make waves in the 765 area (code), specifically Lafayette." He listed several targets of the group, including the Tippecanoe County sheriff, a West Lafayette police officer and two judges.
Bradbury's attorney, Ashwin Cattamanchi, said the posting was made only to Bradbury's friends on Facebook and weren't meant to be shared with the general public. He also noted that when some people commented on his post, Bradbury wrote: "This is an exercise in free speech, protected by the first amendment of our Constitution. Take it as what you will, this is simply a free speech exercise. Are any of these plans real? Not as far as I know. But it's protected free speech."
Cattamanchi denied comment after the hearing, as did Bradbury's parents.