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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Three Illinois Men Indicted on Federal Civil Rights and Hate Crimes Charges in the Bombing of Bloomington, Minnesota, Islamic Center

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald, and Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division, today announced a five-count federal indictment charging Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 22, with charges including federal civil rights and hate crime violations, in connection with an explosion at the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center (DAF) in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Aug. 5, 2017. McWhorter, Morris, and Hari were previously named in a criminal complaint filed on March 13, 2018, in the District of Minnesota, charging them with arson.

The three defendants are currently being held in custody in Urbana, Illinois, on separate charges.

“All people – regardless of where they worship – have the right under federal law to live free from the threat of violence and discrimination,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore.  “This Justice Department will hold accountable under the law anyone who attempts to commit violent acts of hate by threat or action.”

“These three defendants allegedly plotted and executed a plan designed specifically to spread fear and threaten a fundamental right afforded to all, the freedom of religion,” said U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald. “In spite of the destructive and violent act alleged in the indictment, our communities have found strength in taking a unified stand against the attack. My office and our law enforcement partners are committed to upholding the laws that protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

“Last year's bombing was more than just an attack against a single structure, it was an attack on the very religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” said Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Minneapolis Division. “The ability to worship how and where we want is a cornerstone of our country's foundation, and the FBI stands ready to work with the community and our law enforcement partners whenever those freedoms are attacked.”

The indictment returned by a federal grand jury alleges that Hari constructed a pipe bomb and rented a pickup truck in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Hari, McWhorter, and Morris drove from Illinois to Bloomington, Minnesota, in the pickup truck, stopping along the way to purchase diesel fuel and gasoline. The defendants mixed these ingredients together in a plastic container.

The indictment alleges that, in the early morning of Aug. 5, 2017, Morris broke a window at DAF and threw the plastic container containing the diesel fuel and gasoline mixture into the building. It is alleged that McWhorter then lit the fuse and threw the pipe bomb in the broken window at DAF. According to the court documents, the window that was broken was part of the Imam’s office. When the pipe bomb exploded, it ignited the mixture in the plastic container, causing extensive damage in the Imam’s office. McWhorter and Morris returned to the pickup truck, where Hari was waiting, and sped off, driving back to Illinois.

The charges allege that the defendants targeted the mosque with intent to damage the mosque because of its religious character and with intent to obstruct Muslims from worshipping there.  DAF serves as a religious center as well as a religious school for children. As described in the complaint previously filed with the Court, McWhorter said in reference to the DAF explosion, that the defendants did not intend to kill anyone, but they wanted to “scare [Muslims] out of the country” and to “show them hey, you’re not welcome here…” 

As described in the complaint previously filed with the Court, a tip from a confidential source helped to lead investigators to the defendants.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Julie E. Allyn and John F. Docherty, with assistance from Trial Attorney Timothy Visser of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  The team is working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois.

Press Release Number: 
Updated June 21, 2018