Fort Riley, KS – A U.S. soldier who was serving at Fort Riley in Kansas has been arrested for plotting to bomb Presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke in Texas and the headquarters of CNN in Atlanta.
Prosecutors said that 24-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Jarrett Smith first talked about joining the U.S. Army while he was allegedly trying to go to Ukraine to fight with a paramilitary group, The New York Times reported.
“If I cannot find a slot in Ukraine by October I’ll be going into the Army,” Smith wrote in a June of 2016 social media conversation with another man who had gone to Ukraine to fight, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) affidavit. “To fight is what I want to do.”
So he joined the army a year later on June 12, 2017, and was transferred to Fort Riley on July 8, 2019, CBS News reported.
Authorities said that Smith had shared specific bomb-making instructions on social media in group chats and private messages with an undercover FBI agent, The New York Times reported.
In August, he talked about a plan to lead an attack on U.S. soil and said he wanted to find more “radicals” like himself.
The FBI affidavit said that during one conversation, Smith talked about killing members of Antifa, The New York Times reported.
He suggested attacking the headquarters of a “major news network,” later identified as CNN, with a vehicle bomb, ABC News reported.
The affidavit said that on Sept. 20, Smith gave an undercover agent instructions on how to build an improvised explosive device using household chemicals and other common materials, The New York Times reported.
“Making AK-47s out of expensive parts is cool,” Smith said. "But imagine," he suggested, “going to Walmart instead of gun store to buy weapons.”
The affidavit said that when the undercover agent asked Smith for a recommendation of a Texas politician to target, the army specialist recommended El Paso-native, Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, the New York Times reported.
“You got anyone down in Texas that would be a good fit for fire, destruction and death?” the undercover agent wanted to know.
“Outside of Beto?” Smith replied. “I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.”
The FBI arrested Smith the day after that exchange, The New York Times reported.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Topeka, Kansas said the specialist was charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction.
The federal charges carry a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison, The New York Times reported.
The U.S. Army said it was aware of the allegations and had cooperated with Smith’s arrest.
Military and court records showed that Smith had been to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia and then was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas before he was sent to Fort Riley in July, The New York Times reported.
Authorities said that in interviews with investigators after the arrest, Smith admitted to giving instructions out in chat rooms on how to build explosive devices even when he knew the recipients of the information might use if for nefarious purposes.
The affidavit said Smith said he did it to cause “chaos,” The New York Times reported.