ST. LOUIS • Two men linked to a plot to blow up the Gateway Arch and kill a pair of top law enforcement officials were named on a federal indictment made public Thursday that accuses them of trying to use bombs in “violent acts” during protests in Ferguson.
The Post-Dispatch reported in November that sources said the men, who were charged then with making false statements to obtain guns, also had plans to bomb the Arch and kill St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and then-Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
The new indictment against Olajuwon Ali Davis and Brandon Orlando Baldwin, both 22, was not that specific. It says only that they tried to “damage and destroy, by means of explosives, a building, vehicle and other property.”
Baldwin also said he wanted to use the bombs against people, according to court documents.
“The arrests last November of these two defendants, who are members of the St. Louis Chapter of the New Black Panther Party, prevented their alleged plot to carry out violent acts during the protests in Ferguson,” William Woods, head of the St. Louis office of the FBI, said in a statement Thursday.
The men watched a recording showing a bomb detonation on Nov. 12 and Baldwin said, “we need ’em, we need ’em,” court documents say.
Davis paid a deposit on Nov. 18 and agreed to buy what he believed were three bombs, according to the documents. Days later, Davis and Baldwin picked up the devices and were arrested, authorities said.
No other details were given in court documents about the arrest.
The two bought what they thought was a pipe bomb in an undercover law enforcement sting, sources close to the investigation said in November. The defendants allegedly wanted to acquire two more bombs, but could not afford to do it until one suspect’s girlfriend’s Electronic Benefit Transfer card was replenished.
They said Davis was considered the leader of the plot, which police documented on hidden video. Sources also said they were uncertain whether the men had the capability to carry out the plans.
One of the plans, the sources said, included planting a bomb inside the observation deck at the top of the Arch. It was not clear how they could have gotten explosives past airport-style security screening for rides up.
It also wasn’t clear, the sources said, whether the men intended to use bombs as the means to kill McCulloch and Jackson. Both officials became targets of national criticism and protests after Ferguson officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown to death Aug. 9. Jackson has since resigned.
The arrests came three days before McCulloch revealed that a St. Louis County grand jury did not indict Wilson. That announcement triggered looting and multiple arsons in and around Ferguson.
The first indictment against Davis and Baldwin, with no mention of bombs, was returned in federal court here Nov. 19 and unsealed two days later.
This week’s revised indictment includes gun allegations too, alleging that Davis arranged for Baldwin to buy a total of three pistols last Oct. 22 and Nov. 7 at a Cabela’s store in Hazelwood and illegally transfer them to some unnamed felon.
Both defendants have pleaded not guilty of charges in the first indictment.
Davis spoke at a New Black Panther rally at Greater St. Mark Family Church in Ferguson in October about the police shooting of Brown, and was identified there as the Missouri chapter’s “minister of law.”
“This is not the first Mike Brown, and it won’t be the last, if we do not unite,” Davis told the crowd then. “Divided, we lose brothers and sisters. If you do not unite, put aside your difference and unite, you can expect no changes in the future. We must change our minds, our systems and ourselves.”
The New Black Panthers has issued a statement calling the allegations regarding bombing and killing “totally unfounded” and “trumped up and baseless.”
The statement also says that the New Black Panthers do “not teach, endorse, or allow its members to commit acts of violence against anyone regardless to the circumstance, unless in imminent danger according to the rules of Self-Defense.”
Davis also is a self-proclaimed “Moorish-American,” and in a YouTube video posted in 2013 invited viewers to learn how to avoid taxes and unconstitutional laws. He also said in the video that he was hit with a Taser and arrested by St. Louis police in 2013 after he tried to make a purchase without paying taxes at a St. Louis gas station. He said the clerk “denied me of my right not to be taxed as a Moorish national” and refused to accept his identification.
In July 2010, the Post-Dispatch photographed Davis as a recipient of an Access MO award letter for $1,510 to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he was planning to study economics. The story noted how budget cuts had threatened to slash the amount of financial aid students across Missouri receive.
At the time, Davis told the newspaper that he would be the first member of his family to attend college.