If you’ve been following the events in Terre Haute over the past 48 hours, like I have, you probably still have more questions than answers. I was on vacation with my family in Michigan when I first heard the reports that there had been a shooting at the federal building in Terre Haute. It quickly came out that a law enforcement officer had been killed in the shooting and that the suspect had checked himself into Regional Hospital. There was some confusion about whether he was with the Terre Haute Police Department or the FBI, but the THPD Facebook page quickly clarified that the victim, Greg Ferency, was a THPD detective serving on an FBI task force. What the Indianapolis Star and the New York Times have left out of their reports is that Ferency was working on a counter terrorism task force with the FBI.
That information was revealed Paul Keenan an FBI spokesperson in a morning press conference with Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Police Chief Shawn Keen, and this fact would later become very important in understanding the events that unfolded. Some in the community found it odd that local law enforcement would conduct a large procession through the town and declare the fallen officer a hero before any details of the incident were released. In a public statement Wednesday evening the Indiana State Police Superintendent, after warning people not to speculate, wildly speculated that the victim “was an example of someone who would die for a person who hates who they are.” Again, at this point in the investigation nothing was being revealed about the motives of the shooter, let alone his supposed hatred of law enforcement.
By all accounts the officer was a local hero. Reports kept coming in from coworkers who testified to Ferency’s integrity and his dedication to public service. Despite the speed with which the identity of the victim was released rumors ran rampant about the identity of the shooter. It was widely believed that Shane Meehan, a former candidate for mayor, was the suspect but that was not confirmed until the next day. Many people could not believe that a man with a family, with no known criminal history, and who had served in law enforcement could have possibly committed such an extreme act of violence. The fact that he had previously been a member of law enforcement also cast a shadow of doubt against the ISP Superintendent’s speculation that the act was motivated by a hatred of police. Due to the seeming impossibility of the situation lots of speculation about supposed personal issues between the two men were circulated as a possible motive for the crime.
It wasn’t until after Meehan’s identity had been revealed that reports started surfacing of Molotov Cocktails being involved. According to a criminal complaint filed by the US District Court in Southern Indiana, Meehan threw a fire bomb at the federal building, shot detective Ferency when he exited the building, exchanged gunfire with a federal agent, and escaped in his pickup truck despite being shot twice. The same affidavit revealed that the suspect was apprehended at a local hospital and three more fire bombs were found in his truck along with ammunition. It doesn’t seem to make sense that a man with just a personal grudge against a local police officer would fire bomb a federal building, but it would make sense if the local task force was targeting domestic extremists and Meehan, who had clearly succumbed to some form of extremism, felt threatened or was angered by their investigations.
Update: With the possibility of domestic extremism being involved it’s worth mentioning that several politicians and political commentators have been alluding to the FBI’s involvement in national controversies, and on the June 15th episode of Tucker Carlson’s show he blamed the FBI for the January 6th insurrection at the capitol building. This is apparently a theory that’s been floating around for some time. One of his exact quotes was that “FBI agents were organizing the attack on the Capitol.” He made this claim based on a phrase used in government documents related to the Capitol investigation referring to “unindicted co-conspirators.” It was later revealed by the Washington Post that unidentified co-conspirators did not refer to FBI agents involved in planning the attack, but to family members of people at the Capitol building during the protest.