The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Two men charged in alleged plot to firebomb California Democratic Party headquarters

Then-California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton speaks during the dedication of the John L. Burton California Democratic Party Headquarters in Sacramento in 2014. Two men have been charged with plotting to blow up the state Democratic Party's headquarters in Sacramento, federal prosecutors said Thursday. From left are then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, then-state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. At right is then-Gov. Jerry Brown and second from right is then-California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Two men have been charged in an alleged plot to firebomb the California Democratic Party’s headquarters in Sacramento, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

Ian Benjamin Rogers and Jarrod Copeland were “prompted by the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election” and believed their attack would spark a “movement,” according to federal prosecutors, who said the men were members of a militia group.

Law enforcement officers seized five pipe bombs, thousands of rounds of ammunition and “between 45 and 50 firearms, including at least three fully-automatic weapons” during a January search of Rogers’s home and business, according to the indictment.

“The FBI’s highest priority has remained preventing terrorist attacks before they occur, including homegrown plots from domestic violent extremists,” Craig Fair, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office, said in a statement. “As described in the indictment, Ian Rogers and Jarrod Copeland planned an attack using incendiary devices. The FBI and the Napa County Sheriff’s Office have worked hand-in-hand to uncover this conspiracy and to prevent any loss of life.”

Rogers and Copeland face charges, including conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used in interstate commerce; possession of unregistered destructive devices; and obstruction of justice.

News of the alleged plot comes amid an alarming rise in domestic extremist violence in the United States. According to a Washington Post analysis in April of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the number of domestic terrorism incidents hit an all-time high in 2020, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left and causing more deaths.

The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by a pro-Trump mob gave the issue even greater urgency. The assault left five people dead, and nearly 140 officers were attacked as they faced rioters armed with ax handles, bats, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks and other weapons, authorities said.

According to court documents, Rogers and Copeland had discussed attacking the offices of social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, before finally settling on the California Democratic Party.

“I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” Rogers told Copeland in a Jan. 11 text message cited in the indictment.

“I’m thinking sac office first target,” he later wrote, referring to the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento.

Copeland agreed and replied, “Plan attack.”

Rogers ended the conversation with the message, “Let’s see what happens after the 20th we go to war.” President Biden was inaugurated Jan. 20.

In another message, Rogers wrote, “I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will.” The message was an apparent reference to Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States.

Law enforcement agents found a sticker for the Three Percenters anti-government movement on Rogers’s vehicle and a satirical “white privilege card” that contained references to Trump.

Agents also found copies of “The Anarchist Cookbook,” the “U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook” and “Homemade C-4 A Recipe for Survival” at Rogers’s business.

“The Anarchist Cookbook,” which was published in 1971, has been linked to attacks including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1999 Columbine massacre and the 2011 Tucson shooting in which then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was wounded.

California Democratic Party chairman Rusty Hicks called the news of the alleged plot “extremely disturbing” and said it “points to a broader issue of violent extremism that is far too common in today’s political discourse.”

“We will not be dissuaded from the important work of protecting and preserving a democracy that works for every person who calls California home,” Hicks said in a statement Thursday night.

Devlin Barrett and Emily Langer contributed to this report.