CLAYTON, Mich. — David Brian Stone and his wife, Tina, made no secret about the fact that they were part of a militia, neighbors say. The couple frequently let visitors in military fatigues erect tents in front of their trailer home at the intersection of rural dirt roads, and the sound of gunfire was routine.
"In Michigan, I don't think it's that big of a deal to be in a militia," said Tom McDormett, a neighbor.
He added: "They would practice shooting, but that's not a big deal. People do that all the time out here."
But last Saturday night, McDormett watched through binoculars as the police raided the Stones' home, tearing off plywood from the base of their two connected single-wide trailers to search under the floors. By Monday, the Stones were in green prison garb in a federal courthouse in Detroit, two of nine defendants facing sedition and weapons charges in connection with what Attorney General Eric Holder called an "insidious plan."
In an indictment against the nine unsealed on Monday, the Justice Department said they were part of a group of apocalyptic Christian militants who were plotting to kill law enforcement officers in hopes of sparking an antigovernment uprising, the latest in a recent surge in right-wing militia activity.
The court filing said the group, which called itself the Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer and then bomb the funeral caravan using improvised explosive devices based on designs used against American troops by insurgents in Iraq.
FBI agents moved quickly against Hutaree because its members were planning an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said. Authorities seized guns in the raids but would not say whether they found explosives.
"This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society," Andrew Arena, the FBI special agent in charge in Detroit, said. "The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States."
David Brian Stone, 44, and one of his sons were identified as ringleaders of the group. Stone, who was known as "Captain Hutaree," organized the group in paramilitary fashion and members were assigned secret names, prosecutors said.
"It started out as a Christian thing," Stone's ex-wife, Donna Stone, said. "You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far."
The Hutaree — a word Stone apparently made up to mean Christian warriors — saw local police as "foot soldiers" for the federal government, which the group viewed as its enemy, along with other participants in what the group's members deemed to be a "New World Order" working on behalf of the Antichrist, the indictment said.
Eight defendants were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. A son of David Stone was arrested Monday night about 30 miles from the site of a weekend raid, at a home where he was found with five other adults and a child.
Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, surrendered, Arena said. His friends and relatives had recorded messages, urging him to surrender, that the FBI played over loudspeakers.
According to the indictment, the group — apparently centered in Lenawee County, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit — has been meeting regularly since at least August 2008.
And the group's Web site suggested that it was motivated by apocalyptic religious scenarios more than any fear of socialist takeovers. A rare mention of secular politics on the site is a page devoted to discussion of efforts to unite Europe, with a suggestion that one high-ranking European official, Javier Solana, might be the Antichrist.
Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a liberal-leaning nonprofit group that tracks far-right networks, said that the Hutaree's philosophy was drawn from a populist strand that fuses fear of a conspiracy to create a one-world government with a belief that a war is imminent between Christians and the Antichrist, as described in the Bible's Book of Revelation.
Mark Potak, who leads a program that tracks right-wing groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it first took note of the Hutaree last year amid a surge in new "Patriot" movement groups, race-based hate groups, extremist anti-immigrant groups, Christian militants, and other variations.
"We're seeing all kinds of radical right-wing groups grow very rapidly, especially in the militia world," he said
The indictment said the Hutaree, in anticipation of a war against its enemies, had been engaging in "military-style training," from weapons proficiency drills to "close quarter battle drills" and the use of "ambush kill zones." The small group had acquired guns, ammunition, medical supplies, uniforms, communications equipment, and "explosives and other components for destructive devices," it said.
Prosecutors said David Stone had identified certain law enforcement officers near his home as potential targets. He and other members discussed setting off bombs at a police funeral, using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his death, killing an officer after a traffic stop, or attacking the family of an officer, according to the indictment.
After attacking the police, the members planned to retreat to several preplanned "rally points" and wait for authorities to come after them. They were preparing fighting positions as well as "trip-wired and command-detonated" bombs, it said.
The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Barbara McQuade, said the government raided the group this past weekend because that exercise would have "had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.