Three suspected ecoterrorists have been arrested in Auburn, California, in a plot to destroy federal property, cell phone towers and power generation facilities, according to the FBI.
Zachary O. Jenson, 20, of Monroe, Washington, Lauren Weiner, 20, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Eric Taylor McDavid, 28, of Auburn, California, were arrested on January 13, 2006, in a Placer County shopping area parking lot with shopping bags containing bleach, glass cleaner, rubber gloves and masks - items that can be used to make homemade bombs, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI.
Law enforcement officials say the suspects are connected to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the most active environmental extremist movement in the United States.
The suspects were also allegedly plotting to destroy U.S. Forest Service facilities, banks and commercial trucks. The investigation, conducted by at least a dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, began nearly a year ago. "We did prevent some violent acts; I am sure of that," said Dave Picard, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento office.
During the arrest, FBI agents took a notebook from McDavid that contained drawings of pipe bombs, lists of ingredients for creating homemade explosives and drawings of the Forest Service's Institute of Forest Genetics in Placerville, the affidavit says. McDavid was an "associate" of Ryan Daniel Lewis, a Newcastle resident who pleaded guilty to arson-related charges linked to ELF in October, according to court documents. The suspects have also been linked to Eva Holland, who also pleaded guilty to arson-related charges.
Placer County has experienced a rash of ecoterror-related acts since December 2004, when three incendiary devices were found at a housing development in Lincoln. Graffiti left at the scene included the messages "U will pay," "Quit destroying their homes" and "Leave." ELF claimed responsibility for planting the devices in a letter sent to several news agencies.
Two weeks later, five incendiary devices, which failed to ignite, were found in a building under construction in Auburn. In a letter sent to several news agencies, ELF claimed responsibility for planting the devices and said the office building was targeted as "a statement against work and the horror of the (cubicle)."
In February 2005, an apartment complex in Sutter Creek was firebombed and a storage container was spray painted with the words "We will win - ELF." All seven devices ignited, destroying one apartment and causing damage to three others. Then, on February 13, an incendiary device was found on the steps of the Placer County Historic Courthouse. The device was dismantled by the county sheriff's bomb squad robot. Two days later, a pipe bomb was found behind the Auburn office of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In October 2005, three Newcastle residents, including Lewis and Holland, pleaded guilty to arson-related charges in connection to some of these incidents. A fourth defendant is awaiting trial.
Several other alleged ecoterrorists have been arrested in recent months. In December 2005, six suspected members of environmental and animal rights extremist movements were arrested in connection with four arsons and the toppling of an electrical transmission tower in the Pacific Northwest. Federal agents arrested the suspects in a series of coordinated raids in New York, Virginia, Oregon and Arizona.