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‘Time for war bro’: How an extreme right-wing Napa mechanic built an arsenal

  •   16 min reads
‘Time for war bro’: How an extreme right-wing Napa mechanic built an arsenal
Ian Rogers allegedly built an arsenal of 49 guns, including illegal machine guns, and 15,000 rounds of ammunition. Photos: Public records, Facebook.

On Jan. 6, 2021, like much of America, Ian Rogers and Jarrod Copeland were glued to their TVs. Rogers, a mechanic in Napa, and Copeland, a salesman who used to work for Rogers, were texting each other throughout the day. They’d been texting for months – since President Donald Trump lost the election – about who they wanted to attack.

“I say we storm the capital armed on the 19,” Rogers wrote to Copeland, according to transcriptions of their conversation released by the California Highway Patrol. “We gotta organize and do it. Mobilize the 3%.”

“Copy,” Copeland responded.

Copeland would later tell Rogers that his wife was crying and rubbing his back as he watched Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol trying to stop the counting of ballots in the 2020 election. “Please don’t leave me,” he recounted she told him. “I don’t know what to do without you.”

But Rogers and Copeland, believing the 2020 election was fraudulent, were convinced they may need to sacrifice their lives.

“I have 5 nieces and a nephew that' s enough for me to lay down my life for,” Copeland said a day after the Capitol riots.

“Sad we will need to die but it probably will happen,” Rogers said. “Are you ready?”

“I have the gear and the toys so yeah, mentally yeah I’m there I believe,” Copeland said.

“Are you ready to leave your wife?” Rogers asked.

“She knows how I am and she knows I will put myself in harms way for what I believe in,” Copeland replied.

Copeland and Rogers already held extreme beliefs by the time Trump lost the 2020 election. They were part of a local faction of the Three Percenter movement, which federal prosecutors said in court filings are a group with extreme pro-gun, anti-government beliefs. Rogers had amassed an arsenal of guns, including illegal automatic weapons, and fired them at a range run by people affiliated with the Three Percenter movement.

But Trump’s election loss and his and his allies’ statements questioning the legitimacy of the vote specifically motivated Copeland and Rogers to plan violence, according to prosecutors. In text messages during the days after Trump’s defeat released through court filings and public records requests, the pair discussed a variety of potential targets, including the California governor’s mansion, the Democrats’ headquarters in Sacramento, and the offices of Twitter and Facebook – whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Rogers described with an anti-Semitic slur.

“If they don't listen to trump they will hear us,” Copeland wrote in a text to Rogers on Nov. 30, 2020.

“We don't need to win over 50,000 people we need 500 pissed off patriots that want America back,” Copeland said in another undated message.

“I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn't I will,” Rogers wrote in an undated text message.

The pair were further motivated to discuss violence by the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. A variety of right wing groups were involved in the attack and have been prosecuted for their role in organizing it, including four Southern California men affiliated with the Three Percenter movement who have been charged with conspiracy. A Texas Three Percenter who entered the Capitol with a pistol and zip ties was found guilty of five criminal counts in March following the first jury trial from the attack.

Rogers and Copeland have said the Three Percenter group they participated in was a “preppers” social club and not involved in militia activities. From its inception after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, the Three Percenters have anticipated a second civil war over gun ownership, believing that the government would come to take their weapons, necessitating a violent resistance.

Who are the Three Percenters?
“The ethos of groups like the so-called ‘3%-ers’ is armed rebellion against the federal government,” prosecutors said.

But while Rogers associated with extremist groups for years while amassing an illegal arsenal, he did not catch the attention of law enforcement until the FBI and the Napa County Sheriff’s Office received a tip about his plans following the last presidential election.

This, however, is not for lack of contact with law enforcement. A review of court and police records by the Vallejo Sun shows multiple missed opportunities by law enforcement to disarm Rogers. The tip that eventually led to Rogers’ arrest also alleged that Rogers sold an illegally modified automatic AK-47 to his brother-in-law, a sheriff’s deputy in California. But the tip was apparently never followed up on and the deputy’s employer said that a year later, he had never been informed of the allegation.

Then, months before he was arrested in connection to the bombing plot, Rogers was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Despite visible injuries to his wife and a neighbor’s eyewitness account, he was never charged.

Rogers was indicted last year for conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive, possession of an unregistered destructive device, and possession of machine guns. He is also charged in state court with possession of illegal weapons. Copeland is charged with conspiracy and destruction of records in an official proceeding.

Rogers is scheduled to plead guilty in federal court Friday while his state charges are still pending.

Ian Rogers may have sold illegal weapon to sheriff’s sergeant

Ian Rogers opened his repair shop in Napa in 2007, but he didn’t register his business with the state until 2013, when his then-wife, Julie Crisci, helped him incorporate. The business is on a dead-end street surrounded by other car businesses with an outdoor wine garden on the corner. It’s just a few blocks from the Napa River and downtown Napa, where dozens of high-end restaurants serve wine grown in the surrounding valley. Throngs of visitors flock there for a night out every weekend. The Napa Valley Wine Train chugs past Rogers’ building each day.

It’s unclear when Rogers started amassing his arsenal, but public posts on his Facebook account show large guns displayed in his home since at least 2015. By the time the Napa County Sheriff’s Office searched his home and business on Jan. 15, 2021, authorities allegedly seized 49 guns, including several automatic weapons, such as an MG-42 belt-fed machine gun, according to charging documents and an inventory from the search.

A tip to the sheriff’s office and the FBI months earlier led to the raid. According to court records, the first tip came in September 2020 when the tipster made numerous allegations about Rogers. The tip included a video of Rogers firing an AK-47 converted to be fully automatic at a local gun club. The tip said he had a large arsenal including several machine guns and 15,000 rounds of ammunition stored in his garage.   The person also said Rogers had built seven automatic AK-47s and had sold or given one to his father, who lived in a loft at Rogers’ mechanic business, and one to his brother-in-law, a sheriff’s deputy in California.

Roger’s former wife has a brother named Adam Crisci, who is a sergeant in the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. Crisci did not respond to questions about whether he had ever purchased an AK-47 from Rogers. When asked if his office had investigated whether Crisci had ever purchased or owned such a weapon, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said in an email in January, more than a year after Rogers was arrested, that he was unaware that the FBI had received a tip implicating Rogers’ brother-in-law.

Siksiyou County Sheriff's Sgt. Adam Crisci.
Siskiyou County Sheriff's Sgt. Adam Crisci. Photo: Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department.

“This is the first I have heard of any of this information,” LaRue said, adding that he had not been contacted by the FBI, the Napa County Sheriff’s Office nor the Napa County District Attorney’s Office regarding the investigation into Rogers.

Napa County Sheriff’s spokesperson Henry Wofford said that all the information received by the agency was passed along to the FBI and the DA’s office. He said he could not comment further on the active investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to questions.

Crisci has been with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office since 2005. Before that, he spent five years in the Yreka Police Department and two years in Mount Shasta police, according to state records. Crisci was promoted to sergeant in 2016.

Ian Rogers was arrested for domestic violence but never prosecuted

Ian Rogers and Julie Crisci filed for divorce in 2014. The divorce was acrimonious, with Rogers writing in a public Facebook post in 2015 that Crisci was “too fucking lazy to get out of bed at 6 in the morning” and “Thank God that lazy POS is out of my life. What a piece of crap.” However, Crisci remained listed as his business’s secretary and chief financial officer in state records and testified as to his business’s financial situation following his arrest.

Rogers remarried in 2020. During the first six months of his new marriage, police were called twice to his home in American Canyon.

Rogers’ latest wife called police herself on March 29, 2020. She told a dispatcher that Rogers had cut off her credit card and threatened to cut off her cellphone service the next day and to throw her out of the house in two weeks. She had come to the country on a visa and had no friends and didn’t know what she would do if he were to throw her out. She advised the dispatcher that Rogers was armed with several guns. Police responded to the home but did not arrest him at that time.

Then on Aug. 18, 2020, police responded to Roger’s home again after a neighbor called 911 and said Rogers had dragged his wife across their driveway while both seemed to be  dressed for bed. “He was chasing the lady out of his house and dragged her on to the floor,” the caller told the 911 dispatcher, according to recordings obtained via public records request. Rogers’ wife’s 10-year-old son had asked him to call police, the neighbor said, adding that he knew Rogers to be a “heavy drinker.”

According to the police report, officers arrived and spoke to Rogers’ wife, who said that Rogers had become angry and yelled at her when she had asked him about him talking to another woman. She said that she would call 911 if he did not stop yelling and left the house. Rogers followed and tried to take her phone. The report says she fell down in the driveway, but she told officers that he didn’t push her down and that she didn’t want him arrested. She had a 1-inch gash on her head, dried blood in her hair and a scrape that “appeared to be road rash” on her right shoulder, the report states.

Rogers’ wife was taken to a hospital and Rogers was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence and a misdemeanor for trying to prevent her from summoning help.

The Napa County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute. In an email, Napa County​​​​​ Assistant District Attorney Paul Gero said, “The case was rejected for lack of sufficient evidence.”

Had the case been prosecuted, Rogers could have been forced to surrender his guns, and investigators may have discovered his large collection of illegal weapons months before Rogers would allegedly plan to use them in an attack.

Ian Rogers and Jarrod Copeland were members of an anti-government group

Jarrod Copeland was in his mid-20s when he met Ian Rogers. Copeland responded to a Craigslist ad seeking a mechanic in 2010 and Rogers hired him, according to federal prosecutors. Copeland’s LinkedIn profile says he worked for British Auto Repair starting in early 2011 and would work there for the next three years.

In a motion to detain filed after Copeland’s arrest, prosecutors wrote that he joined the U.S. Army in December 2013. He was arrested for desertion five months later and then again in October 2016, after which he left the Army with an other than honorable discharge.

Prosecutors said that Copeland joined an anti-government militia group, the Three Percenters, after his discharge from the military. Copeland later told investigators that the group was not a militia but a group of “preppers,” who assist people following natural disasters. But federal prosecutors disputed that characterization, writing, “the ethos of groups like the so-called ‘3%-ers’ is armed rebellion against the federal government, which they liken to a tyrannical occupying power.”

Three Percenters are a large, loosely-affiliated group of people who subscribe to their ideology across the nation. There is no central organization like another nationwide militia, the Oathkeepers, and instead adherents are united by their shared, yet incorrect, belief that only 3% of American colonists fought in the Revolutionary War. While anyone can call themselves a Three Percenter, there are some national organizations operating under the Three Percenter banner, including the Three Percent United Patriots or 3UP, a group that started in Colorado and has offshoots in California, which Rogers and Copeland both belonged to, according to prosecutors.

The California group is split into several geographic zones. The Bay Area zone that Rogers and Copeland participated in is Zone 4, according to screenshots of a Facebook organizing group obtained by the Sun. The Zone 4 Facebook group had 24 members in 2020.

The FBI tip that implicated Rogers indicated that 3UP membership was required to shoot at Twin Sisters Gun Club, a 160-acre wooded plot just outside of Fairfield. As the Sun previously reported, Solano County had found the club was operating illegally in 2016. Its owner, Facebook engineer Thomas Bock, engaged in a lengthy legal fight to overturn the decision before he sold the property in 2018. Neighbors complained that they continued to hear gunfire well after it was ostensibly closed.

A video that allegedly shows Rogers firing an illegal fully-automatic AK-47 with a 75-round drum at Twin Sisters was provided to the FBI and published by the Vallejo Sun last year.

An undated video allegedly showing accused domestic terrorist Ian Rogers firing an automatic AK-47 at Twin Sisters Gun Club.

Members of 3UP met in person at a barbecue in 2020 – including Rogers and Copeland, who both brought their wives – according to social media posts planning the event and photographs taken there that were obtained by the Sun. Facebook posts show that it was held at a home in Milpitas.

Like many Three Percenter groups, the Zone 4 group was adamant that they were not a militia and not involved in confronting left-wing antifascist groups. “At most it is a prepper group,” one member wrote in the Facebook group. “This group is terrified of being labeled a militia.”

Federal prosecutors said Copeland told Rogers in January 2021 that he had been offered a position as either communication or security officer in the Three Percenter group.

“His ascent within the ranks of an anti-government militia indicates that he is unlikely to respect the Court’s authority to order him to do anything,” prosecutors wrote in Copeland’s detention motion. “That he considered himself a ‘patriot’ for planning acts of violence is a measure of how little respect he has for the basic functions of government, including the courts.”

Arsenal included ghost guns and pipe bombs

When investigators searched Copeland’s home in Vallejo in January 2021, they found an arsenal that, while not as extensive as Rogers’, was largely untraceable. Copeland had several “ghost guns,” which are built from kits or 3D-printed parts that do not have serial numbers.

In his bedroom, investigators found parts for an AR-15 rifle and two completed pistols. Copeland also had an AR-15 that was registered to him and a .45-caliber pistol registered to Rogers. In his truck parked outside, Copeland had a 9mm handgun and a .22-caliber rifle.

Also in Copeland’s bedroom, investigators found several “go bags,” each with a change of clothing, medical supplies, food, a helmet, a face shield, pads, passports and identification for Copeland and his wife, and loaded magazines. Copeland also had $1,200 worth of anabolic steroids he’d purchased in late December, authorities say.

In addition to Rogers’ 49 guns, investigators found five pipe bombs in a safe at his business. He also had materials and instructions for making more bombs, including black powder, pipes and endcaps, according to an FBI affidavit.

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Aimee McLeod said during Rogers’ arraignment shortly after his arrest that when detonated, the pipe bombs could kill people within 5 feet and seriously injure others up to 20 feet away.

Rogers told investigators that the bombs were for “entertainment purposes.” His attorney Jess Raphael said in an interview with NBC Bay Area last year that Rogers told him that, “when he goes on camping trips, sometimes he explodes these things.”

But text messages from the investigation show that Rogers and Copeland had discussed using the pipe bombs or other explosives for violence.

Jarrod Copeland's Facebook profile photo.

Weeks after Trump lost the 2020 election, and as he continued to spread baseless claims of voter fraud, Copeland and Rogers had agreed to attack Democratic targets, according to their alleged texts federal authorities submitted to court.

On Nov. 25, 2020, Trump spoke by phone before a Pennsylvania State senate hearing on allegations of voter fraud.  “This election was lost by the Democrats,” Trump said, despite a previous statement by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency calling the 2020 election the most secure in American history. “They cheated. It was a fraudulent election,” Trump said.

The same day, Rogers texted Copeland, “I think right now we attack democrats,” and then, “Molotov cocktails and gasoline.”

Rogers went on to say, “I think we should hit the Governors Mansion it’s empty no casualties.” Copeland responded, “That’s the best target I think too.”

Two days later, they’d settled on a new target: the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento. But they worried that it was too close to the California Highway Patrol building a block away.

“Take a brick break a window pour gas in and light,” Rogers wrote. When Copeland said that he was worried about the building’s proximity to the CHP, Rogers had another idea: “150 rounds shot into the building will destroy it,” he wrote. “Yeah true,” Copeland responded.

Rogers then added, “And a couple pipe bombs… I say if your down you throw a brick into the windows then pipe bombs you retreat to escape vehicle then I unload 2 drums into the building then we split. 2 75 rounds drums only takes 15 seconds each.”

“That sounds good,” Copeland said. “I like that.”

Their potential targets included centers of government, politics and tech

Following the Jan. 6 attack, Rogers and Copeland were even more intent on acting violently, text messages show. Trump had used Twitter and Facebook to encourage the Capitol rioters, including posting a video message reiterating his claim of a fraudulent election and telling the rioters, “We love you, you’re very special.”

Trump was soon banned from both platforms. NBC News reported that Zuckerberg personally intervened after he was alarmed by Trump’s brazen incitement of violence.

After that, Rogers and Copeland weren’t just talking about targeting Democrats but tech companies, too.

“Why are we the only ones willing to fight for this country? I don't get it,” Rogers texted to Copeland on Jan. 7, 2021. He then followed up with another text calling Zuckerberg an anti-Semitic slur.

Later that day, Copeland texted Rogers, “I got warpaint on my ding ding and I'm ready for battle.” Rogers said, “Time for war bro I see no other way” and Copeland responded, “I agree.”

“I'm thinking sac office first target,” Rogers wrote. “Then maybe bird and face offices,” which prosecutors believe refer to Twitter and Facebook.

They did not carry out any attack. On Jan. 15, 2021, investigators with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI raided Rogers’ home and business.

In addition to Rogers’ weaponry, investigators found fascist-themed objects in his safe, including a Nazi flag, a knife labeled with a swastika, and German memorabilia from the World War II period. When that evidence was discussed at his arraignment, the Napa Valley Register reported that Rogers said he didn’t like when the prosecutor called him a Nazi.

Investigators also found a “white privilege card,” designed like a credit card, which “trumps everything” and was issued to “Scott Free.” The card numbers repeat “0045,” a reference to Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

Ian Rogers former shop for rent in Napa.
Ian Rogers former shop for rent in Napa. Photo: Scott Morris.

Prosecutors said that Copeland learned of Rogers’ arrest the next day and reached out to a leader in the Three Percenter group they belonged to. The leader advised him to switch to a new communications platform and delete his communications with Rogers, and Copeland agreed. Prosecutors have not named or charged anyone else associated with the group.

The next day, the sheriff’s office and FBI searched Copeland’s home in Vallejo, where they recovered more guns and steroids. But when they searched his devices, his communications with Rogers had been erased.

Rogers was swiftly charged in federal court with unlawful possession of an unregistered destructive device and has remained in custody since his arrest. Rogers is also facing numerous state charges in Napa County for violations of state gun regulations.

But Copeland only spent three nights in jail before he was released without charges, jail custody records show.

CHP records show that Copeland’s arrest charges included selling or transferring a handgun without a license and possession of anabolic steroids, but he was not charged by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office. When asked about why Copeland did not face separate state charges for the firearm transfer or steroid possession, a spokesperson with the Solano DA’s office wrote, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office adopted the prosecution of this case.”

When questioned following his arrest, Copeland told investigators that the text messages between he and Rogers weren’t serious. He said that he felt hopeless after the outcome of the election and was mad enough to “curse” but not to commit violence, according to CHP records. Rogers, he said, “talked a lot of dumb stuff” but he did not believe that he would actually go through with acts of violence. When Rogers would make suggestions like killing Democrats, Copeland would respond with something like, “Yeah, okay,” and a thumbs up emoji.

On July 7, 2021, Rogers and Copeland were indicted in federal court for conspiring to maliciously destroy a building by fire. Rogers was also charged with possessing pipe bombs and machine guns and Copeland was charged with destruction of evidence. The FBI re-arrested Copeland the following week at his home in Sacramento, where he’d moved since his previous arrest. Investigators found that Copeland was still in possession of zip tie handcuffs that prosecutors alleged he intended to use in the plot with Rogers and had purchased more steroids.

Despite that he had been free for six months following his initial arrest, federal prosecutors argued that Copeland was dangerous and needed to remain in custody. A federal judge was inclined to release Copeland to his wife’s custody, but during a hearing in July she withdrew her consent to act as his custodian at the last minute. Copeland has remained in custody since.

Rogers is scheduled to change his plea in the federal case on Friday, but terms of any agreement he has reached with prosecutors has not been disclosed. His state charges, and Copeland’s charges, are still pending.

But despite that Rogers and Copeland never took any action, their discussions may still have a lasting effect.

During Copeland’s detention hearing last year, Alex Porter, an attorney for the state Democratic party, said that the employees, volunteers and interns at the party’s Sacramento headquarters were disturbed to learn that they could have been targeted in a violent ideologically-motivated attack.

“This has had an incredible chilling effect on everyone,” he said.

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