They’re bringing in the big guns now.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) made its first known intervention on Monday into the spiraling crisis in Minnesota, following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. The federal agency charged two men with firebombing a county building in the town of Apple Valley on Friday, and with possessing Molotov cocktails “not registered to them in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer.”
The criminal complaint, brought against Garrett Ziegler and Fornandous Henderson, coincided with warnings from President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr of increased federal involvement in local law enforcement efforts to counter the violence that has wracked multiple American cities.
The ATF’s deposition leans heavily on the findings of the Apple Valley Police Department, which arrested Ziegler and Henderson early on May 29, moments after an explosion at the Dakota County Western Service Center. The center contains mostly local judicial facilities and municipal offices. But the ATF complaint notes that it also houses a passport office and provides voter registration assistance and serves as a polling place—which the agency asserted makes it a site of “interstate or foreign commerce,” thus justifying federal intervention. Further, the ATF claims at least one tenant of the building receives federal funding.
The local cops reported picking up Ziegler’s dropped car keys in the parking lot shortly after responding to a fire alarm at the county building, then encountering the pair as they walked along the road just blocks away. After an unsuccessful alleged escape attempt by the two men, police took them into custody. Police described the pair as sooty, and on opening Ziegler’s car said they discovered bottles of lighter fluid and rubbing alcohol, an empty box for Mason jars, removed price tags for bandanas, and a receipt for nail polish.
The ATF cites an analysis it conducted, and another by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which determined these materials were similar to those used in the Molotov cocktails that hit the Dakota County Western Service Center. It also notes that Henderson related to the AVPD that he and Ziegler had attended protests in Minneapolis near the site of Floyd’s killing, although the agent involved described elements of his story as “implausible.”
Besides accusing Ziegler and Henderson of aiding and abetting one another and damaging the building, the ATF noted that a Molotov cocktail “is a destructive device and a firearm.”
“As such, Molotov cocktails must be registered on the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR), which is maintained by the ATF,” the deposition reads, adding that a query of the database did not turn up any Molotov cocktails licensed to either man.
Efforts to reach Ziegler and Henderson were not immediately successful. The complaint identifies the former as an employee of the Minnetonka Target store where several of the items in his car were purchased.
The deposition alludes to “several individuals,” all unnamed, whom it alleges participated in similar attacks on public and private buildings.
The Sun-Thisweek, a local outlet, reported on the damage to the building shortly after the incident occurred, and the subsequent arrests. But the perpetrators’ names and the involvement of federal authorities and of the ATF in particular, have not been previously revealed.
Apple Valley sits due south of the Twin Cities, and is home to 55,135 people and the Minnesota Zoo.