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‘Just cap her’: Marine accused of suggesting hit on Whitmer denied bond

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

Daniel Harris is a decorated Marine with no criminal background, but can’t be trusted to roam free in society, not after he allegedly plotted to kidnap the governor and said ‘just cap her’ in a group chat, prosecutors argued.

Harris, one of 13 suspects charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,  was denied bond Tuesday after prosecutors convinced the judge that Harris is a danger to the community.

It was Harris, the FBI said, who suggested killing Whitmer in an encrypted group chat, stating: “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her.”

Harris, 23, of Lake Orion, also allegedly commissioned a hit on a Maine police officer in a text to accomplices that read:  “Who would want to go to Maine to go kill a cop for a friend of mine.”

Harris also allegedly suggested hiding the Maine cop’s body, and the body of his wife – though neither came to pass, the prosecutor said.

“He’s armed. He’s trained. He has the military background, which makes him more dangerous” than his less-sophisticated co-defendants, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler, who described Harris as a “very casual” yet “volatile” person.

For example, Kessler said, Harris was so excited to go buy explosives to blow up a bridge as part of the kidnapping plan that he couldn’t contain himself in the backseat of a car. On the way to buy the explosives, he said, Harris sat in the back seat  and  repeatedly loaded and unloaded a semiautomatic pistol.

“What the hell are you doing?” an undercover informant allegedly said to Harris at the time.

According to the FBI, Harris then pointed the gun at the informant’s head and held it there until the informant said “get it away from me.”

“He couldn’t stop playing with an automatic pistol and pointed it someone’s head,” Kessler argued to the judge.

Harris’s lawyer argued for bond and asked the judge to release his client on a tether to his parents, who sat expressionless in the courtroom as their handcuffed son was led out of the courtroom by U.S. Marshals. His parents declined to speak to reporters.

Quoting the prosecutor, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berrens said that if this were a credit card crime, then perhaps bond would be granted. But the alleged crime in this case is too serious.

“Conspiracy to commit kidnapping is a dangerous offense,” Berrens said, later adding “It is not difficult to cut a tether and leave.”

“I’m sure you don’t agree with what I have decided,” Berrens told Harris before asking him if he understood what had happened.

Harris stood and said, “Yes, you’re honor.”

Federal officials allege that Harris participated in multiple field training exercises in Munith and Luther in connection with a plot against Whitmer, according to the criminal complaint against him.

Harris served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a rifleman from June 2015 to June 2019, according to the military service. He became a corporal and was deployed in Japan for about six months. He earned a handful of awards, including the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

“The serious allegations are not a reflection of the Marine Corps, do not reflect the oath every Marine takes to support and defend the constitution, and do not align with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment,” a Marine Corps spokesperson said in an email to the Free Press. The spokesperson did not describe the nature of Harris’s discharge.

Upon leaving the Marines, Harris worked as a part-time security guard.

He worked at Burton-based Lagarda Security from mid-July to mid-September 2019 before quitting for what he said was a better gig, said Brent Leder, an attorney for Lagarda Security.

That new job was at DK Security, which provides security services to the State of Michigan.

Kevin Belk, senior vice president at DK Security, declined to comment on if Harris was ever posted at a Michigan state building. He also declined to comment on if the firm had any issues with Harris while he was employed and whether Harris was fired or quit.

Leder said Harris was “about as anonymous as an individual can get.”

“He was a good candidate for employment — went through the background check, had a military history. He didn’t stand out, didn’t have any problems with anybody,” Leder said. “And honestly, nobody’s really heard from him since, and no one really remembers him very much.”

But according to an FBI document filed in federal court, Harris hosted several of the alleged domestic terrorists at his Lake Orion home in August, during which the group expressed concerns about being infiltrated by law enforcement. Harris also attended a meeting in Ohio, in which attendees discussed plots to attack a Michigan State Police facility, court documents allege.

According to the criminal complaint, Harris wrote in an encrypted group chat of Whitmer: “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her…at this point. F— it.”


© 2020 the Detroit Free Press