Right-wing extremism rooted in rural Kansas

Decades of long-festering grievances in the rural Midwest have fueled sometimes-violent actions against the government. The Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol was just the latest example.


State News

July 7, 2021 - 10:00 AM

Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Photo by (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

GARDEN CITY — Patrick Stein was bitter. Battles with drugs and the failure of his business in the 2008 recession had derailed his life.

He fumed at the federal government for not doing more to help people like him while immigrants flooded in around him in Garden City.

He went to Washington, D.C., seeking a bailout like the banks and auto companies were getting but left humiliated when members of Congress from Kansas ignored him.

“I saw how disgustingly corrupt, how wasteful our system is,” Stein told New York Times reporter Jessica Pressler.

His story of frustration and anger — at Washington, at big business, at a perceived threat to white culture — echoes long-festering grievances in the rural Midwest that fueled sometimes-violent actions against the government. Episodes that make the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol less a surprise and more of an evolution of far-right dissent.

After his business failed, Stein moved into a trailer on his parent’s property where he spent a lot of time on right-wing news sites growing angrier.

He directed that anger at then-President Barack Obama. Falsely claiming that Obama was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Stein told members of a militia group he joined that “we are literally being run by a terrorist organization at the highest level.”

Then along came Donald Trump, a presidential candidate whose anti-immigrant rhetoric was music to Stein’s ears.

Emboldened by Trump’s election in 2016, Stein and a small band of co-conspirators hatched a plot to strike a blow against the government and the “cockroaches” they believed were overrunning their town.

They decided to blow up an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshipped in a make-shift mosque. Those immigrants had come to Garden City to toil in the town’s meatpacking plants.

On a scouting mission to the complex with a man he had recruited, Stein said he planned to detonate the bomb when the Somalis were gathered for one of their daily prayer sessions.

“I’d give anything to have a f…king camera set up to, you know, wi-fi that sh…t so I could watch it live,” he said before breaking into laughter with the man who was videotaping the conversation for the FBI.

Stein hoped others would follow his lead.

“If things go like we want them to,” he said, “it will inspire others in a huge way.”

Things didn’t go as planned. Alerted by undercover informants, the FBI arrested Stein and his accomplices before they could trigger the bomb.

After a two-week trial in the spring of 2018, a jury took only seven hours to convict Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen.

Federal Judge Eric Melgren sentenced each of them to more than 25 years in prison despite pleas for leniency from their lawyers, who argued the men had been inspired by Trump.