The FBI says law enforcement officials have thwarted what the agency believes was a deadly terror plot in the Montevideo area.
On Friday, state, local and federal authorities executed a search warrant at a trailer home park in the city. They found Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms in possession of a man allegedly plotting the attack.
Buford Rogers, 24, was arrested without incident and detained in the Chippewa County jail. He was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Rogers may face additional charges.
In a court appearance in St. Paul on Monday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Tony Leung told Rogers he'll be represented by a public defender and ordered Rogers to be kept in federal custody. Rogers said he could not afford a lawyer.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said law enforcement authorities believe Rogers was planning an attack that could have killed several people.
"The information we had indicated a terror plot was in its planning stages and may be carried out," Loven said. "The FBI moved swiftly to thwart that plot. At this point, we believe the plot was domestic in nature. But the investigation is ongoing."
Loven declined to elaborate about the location of the alleged target, other than to say it was believed to be in Montevideo, a city of about 5,000 people about 130 miles west of Minneapolis. He also declined to say whether Rogers was believed to be acting alone or as part of a group, or if other arrests were expected.
"I will tell you that the targeting was local in nature. But as far as specific targets, I'm just not in a position to get into those," Loven said. "We're going to determine who was involved, who may have had knowledge. And those questions will be answered at a later date."
In a news release Monday, the FBI said it believed "the lives of several local residents were potentially saved" by the search and arrest, and said "several guns and explosive devices were discovered." The agency said the alleged terror plot was discovered through analysis of intelligence gathered by local, state and federal authorities.
"Cooperation between the FBI and its federal, state, and local partners enabled law enforcement to prevent a potential tragedy in Montevideo," Christopher Warrener, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Minneapolis, said in the release.
Chippewa County Sheriff Stacy Tufto says he had received reports that Rogers might be connected to a militia group. Tufto said his department previously had contact with the suspect.
"We knew about him, and he had spent time in our jail for a burglary," Tufto said. "Knew the possible militia ties. But that's really about it."
Tufto says his office alerted other law enforcement organizations about the militia reports. Rogers had been arrested previously on several charges, including burglary and a weapons allegation.
According to a federal affidavit released Friday, FBI agents from the domestic terrorism squad searched the property at the mobile home park in Montevideo and discovered the Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms. The affidavit said Buford was there at the time of the search, and one firearm recovered from Buford's residence was a Romanian AKM assault rifle.
In an interview with authorities, Rogers admitted firing the weapon on two separate occasions at a gun range in Granite Falls, the affidavit said. Rogers has a past conviction for felony burglary and is not allowed to have a firearm.
Rogers' 2011 felony burglary conviction stems from an incident in Lac qui Parle County. He also has a 2009 misdemeanor conviction for dangerous handling of a weapon in Hennepin County, as well as other criminal violations, according to online court records.