The unhinged conspiracism that has infected the public discourse surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inspire both real and attempted acts of violence—along the lines of the Missouri man who intended to bomb a hospital, the people setting 5G towers aflame, the locomotive engineer who tried to ram the USNS Mercy, or the “Boogaloo Boi” who planned to ambush police officers.
The latest: A 70-year-old man named Jesse McFadden—reputed to be a member of the Michigan Militia—attempted to steal a Coast Guard helicopter earlier this week in the hope that he could fly it to a local hospital and use its guns to shoot up the place, claiming he wanted to “free” victims of the novel coronavirus from their quarantines. He didn’t make it far, and was arrested and charged.
The incident at the Coast Guard station in Essexville began Sunday when a man later identified as McFadden called an Arenac County dispatcher and reported that he planned to steal a helicopter so that he could shoot up a local hospital. He said he “wanted to disrupt the power to the hospital, unlock the doors, and release patients under the COVID-19 quarantine,” according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the arresting Coast Guard officers.
After he hung up, the dispatcher alerted Arenac County deputies and provided information about McFadden’s previous criminal history. In the meantime, McFadden himself drove to the Coast Guard station in Essexville in a pickup truck, pulled up to the gate, and began punching buttons on the security keypad in an attempt to get the gate to open. He then called the command communications center via the phone line at the gate and demanded they open it, but the personnel there declined even as McFadden threatened to ram the gate with his truck before he drove off.
A Michigan state trooper found McFadden about 40 minutes later at an Essexville gas station while he was inside. The officer confronted McFadden when he came out. In the passenger seat of McFadden’s pickup was a shotgun loaded with five shells. When the officer attempted to confiscate it, a struggle ensued in which McFadden hit the trooper, but he eventually was subdued with a Taser and taken into custody.
According to a Hampton Township police spokesman, police were on high alert because McFadden’s previous criminal history included assault on a police officer. “We were told this could be an ex-Michigan Militia guy, possibly having machine guns and or M-16’s,” he told WJRT-TV.
Healthcare workers have already been dealing with a deluge of threats and ugly behavior at the hands of conspiracy theorists who believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax.
“While ‘medical freedom’ may be the rallying cry, the root of their protests are against vaccination,” epidemiologist Tara C. Smith of Kent State told Anna Merlan at Vice.
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