Mom’s Basement is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Accused leader of plot to kidnap Michigan governor was struggling financially, living in basement storage space
By Kim Bellware, Alex Horton, Devlin Barrett, and Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post
October 9, 2020
The purported leader of an extremist plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor was struggling financially and living in a storage space underneath a friend’s vacuum shop after his girlfriend kicked him out of her home, according to people who know him.
Fox had recently suffered personal setbacks in his life, and federal investigators often worry that in cases of domestic extremists and terrorists, such reversals can act as triggering events, propelling them to turn their violent ideas into action. In Fox’s case, there were two such issues – his apparently rocky relationship with his girlfriend and near homelessness.
In the 24 hours since Fox’s arrest, the store where he’d been living has been flooded with hate calls accusing the owner of enabling Fox, who was about to be homeless with two large dogs, before the business’ owner Brian Titus allowed Fox to stay temporarily, according to an employee of the store, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy and safety concerns.
“People have said, ‘How did you not know you were housing a white supremacist?’ ” said the employee, who said Fox could be erratic and arrogant, but there was no indication his views crossed into the kind of violent plans described in court papers by federal investigators.
“He was afraid the government was going to take his guns,” the employee said. Those at the store were aware of Fox’s Second Amendment views and involvement with a group of armed men, which did not strike them as unusual for the area.
Support for local self-styled militia groups and the Second Amendment right to bear arms have a long history in the state, especially in western Michigan where strains of social and political conservatism intermingle with gun owner culture.
Titus, the owner of the Vac Shack, has stressed in interviews to local media he would have alerted officials if he had gotten wind of any plans to commit violence. He also said he didn’t know about a June 20 meeting in the basement of his store, described by the FBI in court papers, in which Fox and others allegedly discussed plans for attacking the state capital.
The store employee allowed The Washington Post to enter the basement, which was accessed through a cellar-door-style entrance, though authorities have called it a trap door. Fox had a small area in the basement where he slept amid boxes, old filing cabinets and spare vacuum parts. He kept a mini refrigerator and several large dog crates nearby, but appeared to have few personal belongings beyond some clothing. It was unclear what, if anything, federal agents might have confiscated at the time of his arrest.
One of alleged plotters, 23-year-old Daniel Harris, attended a Black Lives Matter protest in June, telling the Oakland County Times he was upset about the killing of George Floyd and police violence.
Parker Douglas, a lawyer for Harris, said his client was a former Marine who lived at home with his parents and did construction work. Douglas said Harris told him some things described in the FBI affidavit were taken out of context while others he “thinks just didn’t happen.” Douglas said his client believes “not everybody mentioned in this knew everything that is described in this complaint.” He said his client, in a brief meeting, had suggested he had voted for candidates from both parties, had not expressed a view on President Trump and seemed to favor small government.
Did I mention I come from Circus Folk?