Army vet gets 25 years for bomb-making class used to target cops

by Vern Evans

A federal judge sentenced an Army veteran Friday to 25 years in prison after the former soldier was convicted of teaching someone how to make homemade bombs for the express purpose of killing law enforcement officers.

Christopher Arthur, 40, was convicted in North Carolina last year on nine counts of providing explosives training and possessing unregistered weapons, including a short-barreled rifle, silencer, improvised hand grenades and an improvised claymore mine. According to court documents, Arthur owned Tackleberry Solutions, which sold training manuals on making explosives. The brand also had a YouTube channel, where Arthur posted a three-part series about how to overthrow the government, in addition to hundreds of other videos that the FBI described as militaristic.

Arthur was arrested after the FBI received recordings from a confidential informant who underwent training at Arthur’s North Carolina residence. The informant had first reached out to Arthur, claiming that officers with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had confiscated weapons from their house. The informant asked for help to prepare in case more officers returned.

Arthur taught the informant a home defense strategy he called “the spiderweb,” a tactic he described as “stupid lethal.” It included surrounding a residence with IEDs and remote-activated firearms.

He also instructed the informant about how to evade arrest after killing law enforcement officers, and he provided the trainee with several components to construct an IED, court documents say.

The jury took only an hour to deliberate before convicting Arthur in July 2023, the Associated Press reported. His charges carried a maximum sentence between 14 and 18 years, but an enhancement for terrorism extended the possible maximum to life in prison. U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever decided on 25 years, saying he took Arthur’s military service into account.

“Violence directed towards police, judges, and public servants will never be tolerated in a free society,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in a statement. “This defendant’s property was wired with IEDs, the same design he sold to help others kill American law enforcement. Anyone teaching bomb-making to target American heroes gets a lesson today: 25 years in federal prison.”

Before sentencing, the defense pointed to Arthur’s military service as a reason he should receive a lighter sentence. Arthur enlisted in 2007 and served as an infantryman. According to court records, he deployed twice to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. His unit sustained several casualties and saw mortar attacks and suicide bombings, wrote G. Alan Dubois, Arthur’s public defender.

The second deployment changed Arthur’s trajectory and served as the beginning of his “descent into paranoid beliefs,” court records say.

“His military service has impacted Mr. Arthur immensely. He constantly reflects on his experiences and acknowledges that those experiences played a role in his appearance before this court today,” Dubois wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Arthur separated honorably as a specialist in 2019. Federal law enforcement learned of Tackleberry Solutions just one year later, after Virginia trucker Joshua Blessed led police on a high-speed chase through multiple counties in upstate New York. Blessed was killed during a gunfight with police. He was later described by law enforcement as a “militia extremist.”

During searches of Blessed’s car and home, officers found multiple instruction manuals from Tackleberry Solutions, including one titled “Quick Reaction Force-Modern Day Minutemen-Improvised Explosives.” They also found emails between Blessed and Arthur about styles of claymore mines, as well as evidence that Blessed had attended training with Tackleberry Solutions in North Carolina earlier that year.

“At a time when law enforcement officers are being feloniously killed at an alarming rate, it is appalling to know what Christopher Arthur did,” said FBI Special Agent Robert DeWitt. “He made a living training people how to kill or injure those who proudly wear the badge. Now he will spend time in federal prison for his dangerous and deadly lessons.”

This story was produced in partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism. Please send tips to [email protected].

Nikki Wentling covers disinformation and extremism for Military Times. She’s reported on veterans and military communities for eight years and has also covered technology, politics, health care and crime. Her work has earned multiple honors from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors and others.

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