Three white men have been sentenced to at least 25 years in federal prison for plotting to bomb an apartment complex in U.S. state, Kansas that is home to Somali immigrants and their mosque.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita, Kansas, on Friday, sentenced Curtis Allen of Kansas to 25 years, Gavin Wright of Beaver County, Oklahoma to 26 years and Patrick Eugene Stein of Kansas to 30 years.
Wright was also convicted for lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a matter involving domestic terrorism, a statement from the U.S. Justice Department said.
The three men, described by prosecutors as members of a right-wing militia group, were found guilty in April of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to violate the civil rights of their intended victims.
During the trial, prosecutors said the men began plotting the attack after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida.
Officials investigated the plot for eight months as the men held numerous meetings to plan the attack and took significant steps – including making and testing explosives – toward implementing their plan, the statement from the U.S. Justice Department said.
“A confidential source, whom the government credited for thwarting the attack and saving the lives of innocent victims, recorded numerous conversations during which the defendants discussed and refined their plan,” the Justice Department added.
“As the plan solidified, the defendants discussed obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives, and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create an explosion that would be sure to level the building and kill its occupants.”
During the course of the investigation, one of the men, Stein, met with an undercover FBI agent in an effort to obtain a bomb, the department said. The agent posed as a black market arms dealer.
According to prosecutors, the men wanted to send a message to Somali immigrants that they were not welcome in the United States. Officials added that the three were members of a militia called the Kansas Security Force and formed a splinter group, the Crusaders.
They had tried to recruit others to join their plot but were not successful, and it was one of those men who tipped off the FBI to the plan, the prosecutors said.
“Today’s sentence is a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism,” acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said.
“The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That’s not just illegal — it’s morally repugnant.”
The Somalis, who settled in Garden City due to lack of jobs in the meatpacking industry, said they are grateful for the support they have received in the area.