Once the province of survivalists on the fringes of society, prepping has “gone mainstream” within the past decade. There are television shows dedicated to following the exploits of individual preppers and prepper groups—I formerly reviewed Doomsday Preppers for PJ Media, and have been to Doomsday Castle—and you can now find many prepper-oriented items in both sporting goods stores and big-box retailers.
It’s now quite common, as are prepping groups.
55-year-old Marty Winters belongs to a Florida prepping group called “River Otter Preppers,” which is stockpiling food, survival supplies, knowledge, and weapons against possible disaster scenarios is on the run from the FBI this morning, allegedly for preparing to fight government agents after the Rapture written about in the Bible’s New Testament Book of Revelation.
Apparently, the Feds also fear the end is neigh, as they acted on a tip and sent an undercover informant into the group for months, which resulted in a grand jury indictment for planning to build crude shotgun shell boobytraps:
The destructive devices — metal tubes designed to fire 12-gauge shotgun shells — were intended to function as booby traps, according to a 24-page search warrant affidavit that lays out the government’s case.
Winters and the River Otter Preppers “are preparing for an end-of-times event as prophesied by the Book of Revelations in the Bible which he believes will occur in the near future,” the affidavit states, “which will require individuals to rely on themselves for food and protection from other individuals and the federal government.”
Last October, Winters told an FBI undercover employee that he had spent $200,000 on his preparations and that he had buried 60 AR-15 firearms in four barrels in the ground, the record states. They toured the neighborhood, and Winters pointed out bunkers that he keeps on three east Hillsborough County properties, two on Williams Boulevard and one on Spring Road.
He talked about shooting government agents in the back, first snagging them with fishhooks that would pop out of air-pressured pipes mounted on the eaves of porches. “Winters will then shoot the agents while they are entangled in the hooks,” Special Agent Ronald Monaco wrote in the affidavit.
An unidentified FBI employee spent months in talks with Winters and wrote that he also talked of shooting tanks of propane gas to kill government agents as they entered his property.
Winters was either tipped off about the FBI raid or simply had luck on his side, and managed to escape the FBI team sent in to arrest him. He is now on the run, a wanted man.
But Winters is wanted for what, precisely?
It’s difficult to know from this article whether Winters and the rest of the group actually build the destructive devices, which is illegal , or if they simply had the knowledge and the materials to build such devices, which generally isn’t other than the very nebulous charge of constructive possession which is typically shredded by a competent attorney.
If it can be proven that River Otter Preppers constructed these devices, then the government should have a comparatively simple case. If they bought old Army manuals from Amazon.com and merely own common household items, then the case becomes much tougher to prosecute. The FBI has blown similar entrapment-based cases, such as the raid on the so-called Hutaree militia.
Another article on the search for Winters states that the group might have straw-purchased weapons, and that some members of the group were convicted felons. Again, if there is sufficient evidence to support these charges, then these men will likely be convicted.
On thing that is far more worrisome that Winter’s “End of Days” prepping, which seemed entirely contingent on Biblical prophesy coming true in the near future, is the fact that the police state reared it’s head again in the raid, terrorizing people that had little or nothing to do with the case:
Casey Kendell is one of Winters tenants, who says FBI agents stopped her and her boyfriend, Jason Swain, at gunpoint with her three small kids terrified in the back seat as they were heading out of town for a birthday party. Kendell says, “Why is my car getting smashed? They pulled me over and slammed my car with no sirens on, broke the windows out of my car. [They] threw flash bombs in the windows with my kids sitting right there, put guns to my temple and my chest and my neck.”
Kendell say agents smashed her passenger door window and sliced her boyfriend’s seat belt to get him out of the vehicle. She says her children, ages, 2, 4 and 7, are still shaken up over what happened. Her 8-year-old nephew was also in the vehicle.
Back at her home, she says agents broke down her door and searched her house. They took away a shell casing and some mail saying it was all related “to their investigation into Marty.” She says, “They weren’t going to find anything anyways. I’m not hiding nothing. What am I supposed to be hiding?”
If Ms. Kendall’s story is relatively accurate, the FBI is guilty of using police state tactics against innocent people, ramming a vehicle with children inside it before smashing the windows and assaulting the occupants. These are actions that I’d expect in Soviet Russia, not in the Sunshine State.
The machine gun-totting, heavily armed agents then proceeded to break down the door to her rented home—presumably, using her house key wouldn’t scratch their itch for wanton destruction—before turning the home upside down in what appears to be a fishing expedition instead of a search for specific evidence against Winters or his prepping group. They left with a spent shell casing and mail… in other words, nothing relevant.
In none of the stories related to the search for Winters has the FBI presented evidence of actual criminal wrong-doing beyond Winter’s flight from justice.
This case reeks of another flashy FBI raid carried out to justify a long and expensive investigation of a relatively harmless group, and a raid where the agents seemed to pose more of a threat to the public that the people they raided.
For the sake of the agency, I hope I’m wrong… but given their track record, I doubt it.