POLITICS
08/16/2017 01:13 am ET

Family Says Man Charged In FBI Right-Wing Terror Sting Is Mentally Ill, Incapable Of Attack

Jerry Drake Varnell's family says the FBI “should not have aided and abetted a paranoid schizophrenic to commit this act.”

The parents of a 23-year-old man accused by federal authorities over the weekend of trying to set off a fake bomb in downtown Oklahoma City said their son is mentally ill and was targeted by FBI agents who “should not have aided and abetted a paranoid schizophrenic to commit this act.”

Jerry Drake Varnell was arrested by the FBI early Saturday following a lengthy sting operation that involved a confidential informant and an undercover FBI agent.

Varnell’s parents, Clifford and Melonie, said in a statement to HuffPost late Tuesday that their son, “is a paranoid schizophrenic and is extremely susceptible to different types of ideology that normal people would deem immoral.”

The family’s statement said that the FBI should have known that Varnell has schizophrenia, and that he had been found mentally incompetent by a court and placed under his parents’ legal guardianship.

“What the public should be looking at is the fact that the FBI gave our son the means to make this happen,” the Varnells said in their statement. “He has no job, no money, no vehicle, and no driver’s license, due to the fact that he is schizophrenic and we; his parents do everything we can possible to keep him safe and functional. The mental health system has consistently failed us due to the lack of establishments and health care coverage for a person like him.

“The FBI came and picked him up from our home, they gave him a vehicle, gave him a fake bomb, and every means to make this happen none of which he had access to on his own,” the Varnells continued. “They should not have aided and abetted a paranoid schizophrenic to commit this act.”

The FBI doesn’t comment on ongoing criminal cases.

The statement called the confidential informant in the case a “drug-dealing criminal” who was banned from the family’s property in June. In court filings, the FBI disclosed that the informant has a criminal history, was serving a sentence for a probation violation when cooperation with the bureau began, and was paid by the FBI.

Varnell has been charged with malicious attempted destruction of a building for allegedly trying to set off what he thought was a bomb located inside a cargo van he parked outside the BancFirst bank in Oklahoma City. Authorities said he subscribed to the “III% ideology” and espoused anti-government views.

Varnell’s family disputed many of the facts outlined in court filings, including the FBI’s claim that Varnell said he had “a bunker for when the world (or United States) collapsed.”

“We do not have an underground bunker!” the family’s statement said. “We built our home a few years ago and bought a storage container, as we use it for a storm shelter. We only recently pushed dirt up around it to make it safe. The building is used for storage and is NOT a bunker full of food and supplies, in fact the doors close from the outside. It has neither electricity nor anything that would make it habitable.”

The family sent HuffPost these photos of the unit:

Varnell family
Varnell family

The Varnells said their son had “no resources to contribute” to the plot.

“Schizophrenics always have conspiracy theories and feel everyone is out to get them. They trust no one and there is no doubt in my mind that this informant began this hate against the government and my son followed along because others easily influence him. There is no person in his life that has even heard anything about hatred for the government and we have all been shocked by the event,” the statement said. 

The family asked the public to “look at the facts of the case and ask why the FBI made this happen.” The statement said the family would have committed Varnell to an institution for help had the FBI brought the issue to their attention.

The family’s full statement is below:

We as a family are extremely distraught about this situation with our son Jerry Drake Varnell, but what the public must understand is that he is a paranoid schizophrenic and is extremely susceptible to different types of ideology that normal people would deem immoral. Underneath his condition, he is a sweet-hearted person and we are extremely shocked that this event has happened. However, what truly has us flabbergasted is the fact that the FBI knew he was schizophrenic. The State of Oklahoma found him mentally incompetent and we, his parents have legal guardianship over him by the Court. These documents are sealed from the public, which is why no news media outlet has been able to obtain them. The FBI clearly knew that he was schizophrenic because they have gathered every ounce of information on him. Reading the criminal complaint against him has brought us great pause due to the numerous lies from the informant. We do not have an underground bunker! We built our home a few years ago and bought a storage container, as we use it for a storm shelter. We only recently pushed dirt up around it to make it safe. The building is used for storage and is NOT a bunker full of food and supplies, in fact the doors close from the outside. It has neither electricity nor anything that would make it habitable.

What the public should be looking at is the fact that the FBI gave our son the means to make this happen. He has no job, no money, no vehicle, and no driver’s license, due to the fact that he is schizophrenic and we; his parents do everything we can possible to keep him safe and functional. The mental health system has consistently failed us due to the lack of establishments and health care coverage for a person like him. He has attended college and just enrolled in welding school. His medications allow him to be somewhat functional but he will never be completely functional in life. His brain does not work like a normal person and never will due to the nature of his mental illness. He has suffered through countless serious full-blown schizophrenic delusional episodes and he has been put in numerous mental hospitals since he was 16 years old. The FBI came and picked him up from our home, they gave him a vehicle, gave him a fake bomb, and every means to make this happen none of which he had access to on his own. We know who their informant is and what the public should know is that he is that a drug-dealing criminal. On June 15, 2017, Jerry’s Father told the criminal informant “that he was not allowed back on our property and if he returned we would have him arrested for trespassing and drugs”. Apparently, he continued to sneak onto our residence. The FBI paid him to continue this operation and I believe they have cleared his criminal record.

The FBI should have filed conspiracy on our son and had him committed to a mental institution. They should not have aided and abetted a paranoid
schizophrenic to commit this act. There are many more facts that I will not make public that will support my son and the disturbing acts made by the FBI. I realize that many will say my son could have found another person to commit this act. Yet, any person that has access to the materials and the state of mind necessary to bomb a building would not have any need for a schizophrenic who has no resources to contribute. Schizophrenics always have conspiracy theories and feels everyone is out to get them. They trust no one and there is no doubt in my mind that this informant began this hate against the government and my son followed along because others easily influence him. There is no person in his life that has even heard anything about hatred for the government and we have all been shocked by the event.

We ask all news media outlets to please respect our privacy. Do not fly
helicopters over our home and stalk us at our gates for a story, we are trying our very best to comfort each other because this is a devastating loss for our family. We do not need to be bombarded by reporters who only want to omit important facts of this event. We understand the public wants to know how this could possibly happen. We simply ask them to look at the facts of the case and ask why the FBI made this happen. He is our son and he is a brother and loved one no matter what he has done. We have unconditional love for him, we are heart broken by this event and wish we had been made aware by the FBI, and we would have committed him into a mental institution for help.

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