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N.C. man offered explosives training, knowing trainees wanted to kill those in law enforcement, prosecutors allege

The Justice Department announced it had charged Christopher Arthur, 38, of Mount Olive, N.C., with teaching another individual how to make and use an explosive, knowing that the individual intended to use that instruction in the attempted murder of federal law enforcement. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The website for Tackleberry Solutions tells prospective customers that it “teaches wartime military tactics for home defense” and offers a free PDF on home fortification for those willing to provide an email address.

But the Justice Department alleged Monday that the organization’s trainer was secretly peddling a more sinister service — direction on how to make improvised explosive devices — and that he knew the recipient of his training was planning to kill law enforcement officers.

In a news release, the Justice Department announced that it had charged Christopher Arthur, 38, of Mount Olive, N.C., with teaching another individual how to make and use an explosive, knowing the individual intended to use that instruction in the attempted murder of federal law enforcement personnel. Arthur was arrested this month, and the case against him was unsealed Monday.

According to court documents, the FBI’s path to Arthur began after a dramatic 2020 chase and shootout in New York state between law enforcement officers and a suspected extremist. Investigators searching the home and vehicle of the slain suspect found guns, improvised explosive devices and an instruction manual from Tackleberry Solutions bearing Arthur’s name, prosecutors alleged.

A confidential informant working with the FBI later reached out to the company requesting one of its free PDFs, and Arthur allegedly began to offer more.

“According to these charges, the defendant provided someone with training on explosive devices knowing that person intended to use that information to murder or attempt the murder of law enforcement,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in a statement announcing the case. “This type of behavior is criminal, it is unacceptable, and it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Prosecutors said the suspect in the chase and shootout appeared to have attended training with Arthur at Tackleberry Solutions for multiple days in March 2020. That suspect, Joshua Blessed, was driving a truck in New York in May 2020 when he fled from a traffic stop.

The local sheriff said at the time that Blessed was an “anti-police extremist” apparently set off by the police’s attempt to pull him over. An affidavit for a search warrant in Arthur’s case indicates that the FBI had been investigating Blessed since October 2018, “based on information that Blessed was organizing and attempting to recruit for a militia extremist group and preparing to engage in an apocalyptic battle against the U.S. Government.”

It was unclear on Monday what Arthur knew about Blessed’s plans. The affidavit alleges that investigators recovered from Blessed’s home a manual Arthur had written called “Quick Reaction Force-Modern Day Minutemen-lmprovised Explosives,” as well as 14 intact improvised explosive devices that appeared to be identical to those found in Tackleberry Solutions manuals.

The two also exchanged texts and calls, the affidavit says.

Damon Chetson, an attorney for Arthur, said in an email, “I do not generally comment about pending cases, and would not about this case.” Arthur is next scheduled to appear in court Friday.

After the FBI informant reached out requesting a PDF from Arthur, Arthur allegedly responded: “To prevent being flagged or shut down, I’ve had to keep parts of this information off of the internet. Especially since explosives are such a touchy topic.” The two continued talking, according to the affidavit, with the informant expressing interest in “militaristic force” training.

“Yeah well … with what they’re talking about in the Biden administration, that might be important, hadn’t it,” Arthur responded, according to the affidavit.

On May 5, the FBI informant met with Arthur at his North Carolina home and talked about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives having been to his own residence. Arthur told him he could: “Stand and fight or be, ah, not exactly where you’re supposed to be,” according to the affidavit.

“ARTHUR then explained how to properly place IEDs throughout the CHS’ property, the importance of creating a fatal funnel, the setup and use of remote activated firearms. and how to evade arrest after killing members of law enforcement,” an FBI agent wrote, using an acronym for confidential human source.

That meeting formed the basis of the charge against Arthur. The FBI agent wrote that Arthur also demonstrated how to make various components of IEDs, including tripwire switches and improvised initiators, and provided those components to the FBI informant. When investigators later searched Arthur’s home, they found multiple IEDs and components, a pistol suppressor, bulk gunpowder and mixed Tannerite explosive, prosecutors alleged.

The website for Tackleberry Solutions seems to contemplate possible legal consequences of its training, asking those who request the PDF to affirm, “I am responsible for knowing the laws in my own area and will not hold Tackleberry Solutions or anyone associated with Tackleberry Solutions responsible for my actions or the actions of anyone around me. Even if those actions are done as a result of the education I have received from Tackleberry Solutions.” The site does not explicitly advocate violence against law enforcement but does suggest its training could be used outside the home.

“After you’ve secured your family, then branch out to your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers. Contact your local law enforcement,” the site says. “Vote in a Sheriff that is willing to work with a local militia. Create a checks and balances for each other. The Sheriff’s duty is to ensure that the militia is operating within the bounds of the law. The militia’s duty is to ensure that the Sheriff is operating within the bounds of the constitution.”