(KMSP) - Minnesota’s militia groups are active, but their movements are almost never seen by the general public. Through public records and interviews, the Fox 9 Investigators got a rare look at one of the groups.
Joshua Raider is a commanding officer in the United Patriots of Minnesota 3% and one of the few willing to talk about the movement publicly. He said people told him not to do an interview. His brother video-taped the conversation between Raider and the Fox 9 Investigators.
When asked what the group stands for he replied: “Protecting community, gun rights, the 2nd amendment, that kind of stuff. Pretty straight up stuff.”
The name, 3 Percenters, comes from the American Revolution, a belief, long-disputed, that only three percent of the colonists took up arms against England.
The 3 Percenters share ideological DNA with other right wing extremist groups, like the Posse Comitatus, The Oath Keepers, and Sovereign Citizens, and especially the militia and patriot movements.
The group, about 400 members strong, has become social media savvy, spreading their message and sharing pictures on Facebook.
3 Percenters have regular training exercises around the country, like this one in Colorado. They say they’re preparing for natural disasters, a terror attack or if everything goes to hell. One of the participants said there were people from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Colorado taking part in the training.
“I think our country is possibly heading toward civil war,” said Raider.
When asked if the groups are racists he said: “I disagree with the white supremacist movement. I disagree with the black supremacist movement.”
“We do not accept hate mongering in our group,” he added.
According to Raider, their members in Minnesota come from all walks of life, including law enforcement, but he also admits they’ve had a few bad apples.
“I run into nuts here and there who try to join our group. You have to weed them out right off the bat,” he said. “Obviously no one thought to check out Jason Thomas.”
Jason Thomas was the leader of the 3 Percenters in Minnesota, until his home in Red Wing was raided by the FBI earlier this year.
“Simply just to protect civilian population from man-made and natural threats,” he told the Fox 9 Investigators.
When asked if the government is a man-made threat he replied, “Yes, governments have historically killed more of their people than anyone else.”
According to a previously sealed search warrant, the FBI considers the Minnesota 3 Percenters a “militia group which believes in the violent resistance to or intended overthrow of the U.S. Government.”
“I don’t know why they’re targeting us, just the ideology we have,” said Thomas.
The FBI said it was also what Thomas wrote on Facebook: “I can guaranty (sic) you that I’ll be one of the first to start killing feds…. And am actually trying to build up our capacity to challenge them” (March 12, 2016).
When asked if he meant federal agents he replied, “can’t comment on that”.
INSIDE THE GROUPS
Michael German is a former FBI agent who’s gone undercover in several other militia groups.
“There is a violent fringe within these movements, that’s persistent and has been persistently deadly,” he said.
According to German, 9/11 and Islamic extremism has overshadowed far right extremism.
The U.S. Justice Department found if people who died in 9/11 and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, are taken out of the equation, nearly twice as many people in the United States have died since 1990 from terrorism on the far right than due to Islamic terrorism (136 Islamic-terrorism victims and 272 far-right victims).
“The groups I infiltrated had a public face, behind the scenes they were manufacturing explosives and gun trafficking,” said German.
In the FBI's investigation into the Minnesota 3 Percenters, agents flipped one of their members, who became a paid confidential informant.
HOMEMADE GUN PARTS
The informant told the FBI the group was involved in manufacturing untraceable assault rifles, AR-15’s by buying them in pieces, known as an “80% lower.”
The ATF, which is not involved in this investigation, showed Fox 9 how someone can take a raw hunk of metal, drill it out, add a bolt, a hammer, a firing mechanism, and turn it into the receiver of an AR-15.
People can get the other parts separately and make an AR-15 and because the lower part is homemade, there’s no serial number.
“If there’s no serial number, it’s untraceable,” said Hans Hummel from the ATF. “The reality is it can be done relatively easy.”
The FBI said a member wrote to Thomas, “If I can produce 80% lowers into a full weapon for 4 or 5 hundred dollars maybe we could hook up the loyal members.”
And those weapons would be perfectly legal to possess, as long as you don’t have a criminal record.
The problem for Thomas is he’s got a felony on his record. He did time 15 years ago for burglary and criminal mischief.
“I’m not sure how me having a weapon violated the second amendment?” he told the Fox 9 Investigators.
He’s charged in state court with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The FBI did not comment on the active investigation.
By last year, other members had had enough of Thomas.
They complained on Facebook that, “the last 4 training events have been drunk fests.”
“Sat morning there was broken beer bottles in my fire pit and puke in my yard. One guy slept in his car with no idea how he even got there,” read one post.
Members also began to question Thomas’ alleged military background.
“I’ve had him personally say he was in the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. And I know it’s a flat out lie,” said Raider.
The Fox 9 Investigators checked and Thomas doesn’t have a military record, something he admitted.
“His lies put us in danger with the FBI and the government,” said Raider
They see themselves as a militia, but they have more drama than reality show housewives.
It’s hard to tell if they’re just peculiar misfits, a legitimate political movement, or some kind of domestic threat.
Thomas said he still thinks about what happened 24 years ago with the raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, martyrs, he believes, for a government that went too far.
“Ten years old I watched my own eyes 30 kids were killed by government agencies. A reminder, things like this can happen in your own country,” said Thomas.
The group elected a new state president three days ago. Sean Hayden told the Fox 9 Investigators they’re in the process of “cleaning house”. He gave further background of the group.