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McLoud man in dispute with police faces weapons charge

Nolan Clay | The Oklahoman
Gannett Oklahoma

A McLoud man wrote that a future civil war will be a "blast" and did shooting training with a silhouette marked POLICE, the FBI alleged Friday.

Christopher Steven Ledbetter, 29, was charged Friday in Oklahoma City federal court with illegally possessing a fully automated machine gun.

"I love you, mom," he said after his initial appearance.

"I love you," his mother, Joann Johnson, replied.

The FBI on Thursday arrested him on a state warrant and searched his family's property in McLoud. Agents reported seizing ammunition, bottles of liquid, fireworks, mortar tubes and possible grenades.

His mother on Thursday blamed the raid and arrest on the family's ongoing dispute with police in McLoud. She told TV reporters the dispute began when a neighbor who is a police officer used their trash bin without permission. She declined to comment Friday after her son's initial appearance.

"I'm too upset," she said.

The intensity of the dispute is apparent in videos posted by Ledbetter on the internet. In one, while armed with a rifle, Ledbetter curses a police officer who had met with his mother to hear her complaints. He became angry when the officer told him to step out of the police building with his gun.

He could be heard on the video telling the officer he was going to drive off without his seat belt.

"If it's worth you killing me over, well do that and I'll spill your ... blood, too," he said. "If you want to pull your weapon on me, I'll defend myself. ... There's a reckoning coming for you. I'm one of ... many."

The dispute led the McLoud police chief on Wednesday to issue a news release to dispel rumors that the police department had been taken over by an "outside group" and that he and his officers had been relieved of duty.

"We have and will always proudly serve the citizens of McLoud," Police Chief Wes Elliott wrote.

In an affidavit, an FBI agent reported Ledbetter admitted after his arrest that he possessed "an illegal select fire AK-47-style carbine." The FBI recovered the weapon from his vehicle. The agent explained it was illegal because it was capable of functioning as a machine gun.

The agent reported Ledbetter fired an AK-47-style carbine in fully automatic mode on a video posted on YouTube May 4 entitled "Training." In the video, eight individuals engage in tactical training on entering a room, according to the affidavit. "The first paper target, which is shot with full auto, is a silhouette labeled 'POLICE' with a badge drawn over the left chest."

The agent reported Ledbetter had a conversation on Facebook in March about a "boog," which is short for boogaloo and refers to "a future civil war." In the conversation, Ledbetter wrote, "That will be better than waiting to get offed everyday."

He also wrote that it will be "a blast while you're getting them" but bad "when they get any one of us ha ha," according to the affidavit.

Ledbetter in April showed up at protest against "stay-at-home" orders in Kansas and admitted to a TV reporter he had "illegal weapons on me," the agent reported.

"But none of them are going to do anything because I'm a peaceful person. Right?" he is quoted as saying.

In a speech outside the state Capitol in Oklahoma in May, Ledbetter said he spent four years in the Marines and later fought as a volunteer with "Kurdish allies" against ISIS. He said he has been threatened "to be killed" many times since coming home to Oklahoma for carrying a weapon.

"I will not follow any laws further more against peaceful freedom!" he said. "If they are using violence on peaceful freedom, I will resist in open defiance. ... And I will defend myself. ... Liberty or death!"

McLoud man arrested for having fully automatic machine gun

OKLAHOMA CITY – Christopher Steven Ledbetter, 29, of McLoud, Oklahoma, has been arrested and charged with unlawfully possessing a fully automatic machine gun, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing announced Friday in a formal press release.

According to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, in March 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) learned that Ledbetter might be in possession of a fully automatic machinegun.

The FBI then reviewed publicly available materials on the internet associated with Ledbetter that depicted Ledbetter on multiple occasions shooting what appeared to be a fully automatic machine gun. The affidavit further indicates that on June 4, the FBI encountered Ledbetter in Oklahoma City driving a 2017 Jeep Wrangler vehicle. In that vehicle, the FBI discovered a fully automatic AK-47 style carbine machine gun.

Federal law prohibits the possession, except under limited circumstances, of a fully automatic machine gun as defined in the National Firearms Act. The affidavit further indicates that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched its federal licensing system. That search determined that Ledbetter does not have the required licenses to possess a machine gun.

Friday, Ledbetter made an initial appearance before the U.S. Magistrate Judge­­­­­­­ Suzanne Mitchell in Oklahoma City. Judge Mitchell ordered Ledbetter be detained pending further proceedings in the case.

If found guilty, Ledbetter faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

This case is a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Oklahoma City Field Office, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Dallas Field Division, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, as referenced in the affidavit, along with other law enforcement partners. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matt Dillon and Jessica Perry are prosecuting the case.

Law enforcement officers also served a search warrant Thursday at the suspect’s home in McLoud.

The U.S. Attorney's office reminds the public that charges are merely allegations, and Ledbetter is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.