MONTEVIDEO, MINN. – The Black Snake Militia’s home base is the Rogers family trailer on the north end of town, where the group’s initials are spray-painted on a repurposed Farm Bureau sign and passerby are greeted by a handmade warning about the dangers of government tracking devices.
“We are not slaves,” the cardboard placard says.
The Rogerses say it’s merely a meeting place for a group of family, friends “and whoever wants to join” their self-made militia, which preaches against government intrusion into citizens’ lives.
But according to the FBI, the trailer was a storage site for potentially deadly explosives plotted for use in a terrorist attack against the police department in this western Minnesota town. The FBI arrested Buford “Bucky” Rogers here Friday after authorities seized a Romanian assault rifle and other guns, suspected pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails from the modest trailer where Rogers’ parents and younger brother live.
All Bucky Rogers is guilty of, his parents said Tuesday, is being outspoken about their group’s anti-government beliefs.
“He speaks his piece,” his father Jeffrey Rogers said. “And the government don’t like people that speak their piece.”
As to what Bucky Rogers, 24, said or did to trigger the raid remains unknown to his parents, and authorities aren’t saying yet.
Rogers, who is charged with a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, will make his next court appearance Wednesday afternoon before federal Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham.
Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher said Rogers and his alleged activities came as no surprise.
“We’ve kind of known for several years about their feelings, and this is not something that just popped up overnight,” he said of the father and son, known for wearing camouflage “almost daily.” He added, “This was something that we’ve been watching very closely for some time.”
The raid took place Friday with the cooperation of local law enforcement he said, because “we had to act.” He declined to elaborate.
Although Bucky lived across town with his girlfriend and their baby son in a two-story house in a quiet neighborhood, he frequently stopped by his parents’ trailer to visit. He came over from work during Friday’s raid, where he was arrested.
Christopher said no search was performed at the home Bucky Rogers shares with his girlfriend because there was no probable cause to believe any weapons were there. The Rogers home in Big Bend, a small town of about 40 people northwest of the city, where they used to live was also searched, but nothing of interest was found.
Christopher couldn’t say he believed Rogers was capable of a terroristic act against Montevideo police or others. “I don’t know if I believe that or not,” he said. “Certainly they have the capabilities and had some feelings.”
Christopher said the family moved to the city from Big Bend in 2009. Since then, Bucky Rogers’ crimes have included garage burglaries that led to a felony conviction in Lac qui Parle County in 2011. Other offenses include gas theft, expired tabs, driving after suspension and possession of marijuana.
Despite the rap sheet, most of the police contacts with the Rogers’ family were cordial and respectful, “at least outwardly,” Christopher said.
Christopher said that contrary to reports by neighbors, Bucky Rogers and his family did not appear to be white supremacists.
“The last time I saw him he was walking around with a black guy,” he said. “I really don’t think it was a white supremacy thing. It was more of a militia-patriot type thing.”
If the Rogers’ rundown trailer is a hub of terrorism, it didn’t appear that way as Bucky Rogers parents sat in the yard Tuesday, sharing a couple of cans of potato chips. A pair of pugs, one also named Bucky, the other CoCo, lounged in the sun while Margaret Rogers chatted on the phone.
Piece by piece, Jeffrey Rogers wrenched apart dust-dulled engine parts, hoping that by the end of the day the scrap metal would become gas money to visit Bucky in jail.
“The government’s railroading my kid, probably because of all the bombings and crap,” he said looking up from his work. “It’s just like the Boston one. All of us believe that’s false. A government deal.”
Jeffrey Rogers said all the guns seized belonged to him and were legally owned. As far as pipe bombs, there were “none that I know of.” He is a plumber by trade, and pipes may be lying around the area.
Rogers’ account contrasts with that of authorities, who described the explosives as sophisticated pipe bombs and others that are normally packed with nails and other types of shrapnel. Others found in the shed were considered unstable. A federal SWAT team that included bomb-demolition specialists removed the explosives and later detonated them, sources said.
Neighbor Leslie Sack heard the explosions, not long after he saw a team of a dozen SWAT members storm the house about lunchtime Friday. The raid was a surprise, he said.
“To me they seem like normal people,” he said of his neighbors who were steadfast in their views, but otherwise waved hello and didn’t cause trouble. “They’re quiet, they stay to themselves and you don’t see a lot of people over there, outside of when Bucky come over from time to time.”
Bucky’s mother, Margaret Rogers, maintained that they weren’t out to hurt people.
“We’re not the evil people they say we are.”
As for whether they thought they could be targeted next by federal authorities, Jeffrey Rogers just shrugged without looking up from his metal. Either way, he said, it only makes his beliefs more steadfast.
“The principles of the Black Snake Militia are just to get the word out of what the government’s doing,” he said. “To wake people up.”