- NPR - Oct 9, 2020 -
Hannah Allan -
The news raced through the encrypted chats of leaders in the far-right militia movement: The Feds got Barry Croft.
Croft, one of 13 men charged Thursday in connection with a domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was a visible figure on the message boards and Facebook pages of the so-called Patriot Movement. NPR interviews with associates who know him from that world portray a power-hungry figure whose angling for stature was unsettling at times. Now that Croft is in custody and his connections under scrutiny, their fear is: Who's next?
"He was very out and open in the movement," one militia leader said.
The leader said that around two years ago Croft, a Delaware resident, made waves as an unknown who tried to streamline national leadership of the Three Percent, a fragmented movement of loosely affiliated armed groups. But regional Three Percent leaders began to question Croft about his motives, the leader said, and weren't satisfied with the answers. A separate account from another state leader described Croft as "radical" even within the heavily armed Patriot milieu.
Last year, Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, pardoned Croft for charges from the 1990s, including possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, assault and burglary, according to documents obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal.
The militia leader said he's never heard Croft talking about violence. For him, the red flag was more mundane – it was when Croft allegedly moved to buy one of the biggest domain names associated with the national Three Percent movement. The leader, a self-described "true believer," saw it as an attempt by Croft to buy his way into a senior role in the movement. The leader distanced his organization from national ties and said he has no idea whether Croft eventually took the reins.
"I've seen them come and go, the ones who want some sort of title," he said.
None of Croft's associates agreed to speak on the record for fear of retaliation from the authorities or people within the movement, and they didn't have information about the others charged in connection with the alleged kidnap plot. The leader of a self-proclaimed national Three Percent umbrella organization didn't return messages seeking comment. The case has sent armed Patriot groups across the country into damage-control mode, worried that the unusually high number of arrests in a months-long domestic terrorism investigation means more are coming.