- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2016

The leader of a Utah-based militia group was arrested Wednesday morning after he allegedly attempted to blow up a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) facility in Arizona.

William Keebler, 57, was charged this week with one count of attempted damage to a federal property by means of fire or explosive, a felony complaint filed in U.S. District Court states.

Mr. Keebler attempted to detonate an inert bomb that he believed would blow up a Bureau cabin in Mount Trumbull, Arizona, authorities said.

Mr. Keebler — known by authorities as the commander of the Patriots Defense Force, a citizen militia group — is linked by authorities to the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, over a land dispute with the BLM, as well as to Lavoy Finicum, a rancher who was killed by law enforcement doing a similar impasse earlier this year in Oregon. Both events are currently under federal investigation.

FBI Special Agent Steven Daniels explained in a statement of probable cause made public this week that authorities were able to arrest Mr. Keebler Wednesday after infiltrating his militia group several months earlier.

Undercover FBI employees began attending the militia meetings with Mr. Keebler in May 2015 and were on hand when he allegedly attempted to carry out the attack in Mount Trumbull, the special agent said.

Mr. Keebler began discussing “going on the offensive” during militia meetings last year, and by February had started the process of selecting a target, according to the complaint.

During a PDF meeting the following month, “Keebler said the government had been allowed to harass people, but the repercussions were going to start,” the FBI agent said.

“Keebler had previously said the BLM was overreaching their authority to implement grazing restrictions on ranchers. Keebler had opined the land belonged to ‘the people’ and could be used responsibly at the American people’s discretion. Keebler said the PDF was going to target BLM facilities in the ‘middle of nowhere.’”

When PDF members met again on April 8, Mr. Keebler allegedly assigned one the undercover FBI agents with designing a bomb that would be used to target a BLM facility in Mount Trumbull, according to the complaint.

Mr. Keebler left Stockton, Utah, on Monday and attempted to carry out the attack the following night, the agent said.

“In the late evening hours of June 21, an inert explosive device was placed against the door of one of the BLM cabins in Mount Trumbull. After the device was placed against the door, Keebler was handed a remote detonation device. Keebler then pushed the detonator button multiple times in order to remotely detonate the inert explosive. After the remote detonation, Keebler departed Mount Trumbull and returned to Utah.”

Mr. Keebler was arrested Wednesday morning in Nephi, Utah, by the FBI and was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, the St. Lake Union-Tribune reported. He faces between five and 20 years in federal prison if convicted, according to the newspaper.

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Utah had no additional comment when reached Thursday by the Union-Tribune.

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