On Friday, two Kansas and one Oklahoma man — who plotted to destroy a Kansas apartment complex inhabited by Somali Muslims — were each given prison sentences of 25 years or more, CNN is reporting.
Patrick Eugene Stein and Curtis Allen of Kansas, and Gavin Wright of Oklahoma, were each found guilty in April on one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy to violate the housing rights of their intended victims. Furthermore, Wright was additionally found guilty of lying to the FBI. All three men were sentenced on Friday. Allen was sentenced to 25 years, Wright to 26 years, and Stein to 30 years.
In a statement, Darrin Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI Kansas City Division, said that Friday’s convictions send a message to those who would commit acts of terror against minorities.
“Today’s sentencing speaks to the FBI’s commitment to protect the communities we serve and our continued obligation to disrupt plots where the intent is to commit violence and harm others.”
Garden City, Kansas’ Somali Muslim Community
The men targeted an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas where Somali Muslim immigrants lived, and where there was an ersatz mosque.
The Somali refugees fled the decades-long civil war in their native country and made their way to the empty, dusty fields of Western Kansas, where there are plenty of jobs in the meat-packing industry.
One of those refugees, Ifrah Farah, told KWCH-TV (Wichita) she simply came to Kansas for a better life and intended no harm to anyone.
“Please, we need peace and love. Because we came here for better lives. We are refugees. We live here. We are not bad people. We love everybody.”
Inspired By The Pulse Nightclub Shooting
After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the three men hatched a plot to take revenge against the Garden City Somali community. Specifically, the men planned to park a vehicle filled with explosives at each corner of the building and then detonate them, ensuring that the building would be leveled to the ground and that as many people as possible would die.
The men even discussed their plans with an undercover FBI agent and attempted to buy and test explosives.
However, they were undone by a confidential informant, who wore a wire and recorded their conversations.
During their trial, Stein’s defense attorney, Jim Pratt, said that his client was influenced by the rhetoric of Donald Trump.
“It wasn’t just the rhetoric of Trump, who ahead of the election called for a ban against all Muslims entering the US, but it was the rhetoric of everybody that put fear into the system and made people believe that if Trump won, on the first day he’d take office, the world was going to implode.”
He claimed that Trump’s rhetoric touched a nerve with people like his client, who felt “lost and ignored” prior to Trump’s election.
Back In Garden City
The convictions have rattled the Somali community in Garden City, but the immigrants say that they’ve received support from their neighbors, which has helped them through this difficult time.