Indy man arrested after items found in car suggest he was planning act of terrorism

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FRANKLIN, Ind. – An Indianapolis man has been arrested after officers found items in his car that suggested that he was planning an act of domestic terrorism, according to prosecutors.

On Aug. 15, a Greenwood police officer pulled over Christopher C. Byrne, 31, after he saw the man “driving suspiciously” through the Greenwood Park Mall parking lot, where there have been several recent car break-ins.

Police say Byrne originally refused to identify himself, claiming he was a “sovereign national.” He was eventually identified and placed into custody after the officer confirmed he was a habitual traffic violator.

When officers searched Byrne’s car, they found a Ruger 10-22 rifle with 100 rounds of ammunition with a scope and homemade suppressor attached. They also found water bottles filled with bleach and ammonia, which form a toxic gas if mixed together in a sealed container.

"I’ve been prosecuting since 1997 and I’ve never seen anything like this," Johnson County Deputy Prosecutor Rob Seet said.

This isn’t the first time Byrne has been in trouble with the law. He was convicted of theft in Marion County in Aug. 2015, after numerous pieces of stolen police equipment were found in his apartment, including a AR-15 rifle taken from a cruiser that was set on fire. Below is a video of that incident.

Byrne was facing a jury trial on Aug. 23 for previous charges. Seet was on the case and said Byrne was representing himself, and had filed concerning documents claiming his "sovereign national" status made him exempt from the law. He had even asked for extra security at the courthouse during the trial.

Instead, a judge ordered Byrne be held without bail because of the arrest a week before trial. He's since asked for a public defender and pleaded guilty to the charges, deferring trial. He will be sentenced in November and faces a maximum of six years in prison.

Seet and fellow prosecutors don't think that's enough, though. He said that while he does not know why Byrne had the items in his car, it did concern him.

"We were nervous. We didn’t know if he was headed this direction or what," Seet said.

That's why the Johnson County Prosecutor has asked the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana to review possible additional federal firearms and toxic chemicals charges under federal law. Those charges don't exist under state law, and federal charges would keep him in prison for longer, too.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney confirmed that its office is reviewing the case but that as of Monday, no charges have been filed.