FRANKLIN, Ind.– An Indianapolis man was arrested and prosecutors say it appears he planned an act of domestic terrorism.
Christopher Byrne, 31, was arrested on August 15 after Greenwood Police Department officer Eric McElhaney noticed Byrne driving in a suspicious manner through the Greenwood Park Mall parking lot. The officer pulled him over after a traffic violation at U.S. 31.
When asked for identification, police say Byrne claimed to be a “sovereign national” and refused the request. Byrne was eventually identified as a habitual traffic offender and was arrested.
During a search of his car following the arrest, officers found a Ruger 10-22 rifle with 100 rounds of ammunition. A scope and homemade suppressor were attached to the rifle. In the back seat of the car, water bottles full of bleach and ammonia were found.
Although the bleach and ammonia had not been combined at the time of the traffic stop, when they are combined these items form a toxic gas in the open or a destructive device if mixed together in a sealed container, prosecutors say.
“I’ve been prosecuting since 1997 and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Johnson County Deputy Prosecutor Rob Seet said.
In August 2015, Byrne was convicted of theft after authorities searched Byrne’s Indianapolis apartment and found numerous items of stolen police equipment.
Among the items found during that search was a AR-15 rifle that had been stolen out of the police car of Greenwood Officer Michelle Richardson in October of 2014 while her car was parked in a private driveway in Franklin. Officer Richardson’s marked police car was set on fire after that theft.
Byrne was facing a jury trial on Aug. 23 for previous charges. Seet was on the case and said Byrne was representing himself, and had filed concerning documents claiming his “sovereign national” status made him exempt from the law. He had even asked for extra security at the courthouse during the trial.
Instead, a judge ordered Byrne be held without bail because of the arrest a week before trial. He’s since asked for a public defender and pleaded guilty to the charges, deferring trial. He will be sentenced in November and faces a maximum of six years in prison.
Seet and fellow prosecutors don’t think that’s enough, though. He said that while he does not know why Byrne had the items in his car, it did concern him.
“We were nervous. We didn’t know if he was headed this direction or what,” Seet said.
That’s why the Johnson County Prosecutor has asked the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana to review possible additional federal firearms and toxic chemicals charges under federal law. Those charges don’t exist under state law, and federal charges would keep him in prison for longer, too.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney confirmed that it’s office is reviewing the case but that as of Monday, no charges have been filed.
Video from previous CBS4 story below: