Walmart arson defendants plotted to use fake bomb vest to rob Mississippi bank, feds allege

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 1:40 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Three men accused of setting fire to several area Walmart stores hatched a plan to rob a bank, using an unindicted co-conspirator wearing vest made to look like it was rigged with explosives, according to an updated indictment.

The new indictment adds a charge of conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery against Jeffery Sikes, Sean Bottorff and Alexander Olson.

But the woman did not go through with the plan, according to authorities.

The indictment alleges that the defendants, at their home in Lillian, attached capped metal pipes, wires and a phone to the vest. The trio and the woman, identified as “M.S.,” drove to coastal Mississippi on June 4 and set fire to a store in Biloxi and then drove around the Gulfport-Biloxi area looking for a bank to rob, according to the new allegations. Eventually, the indictment alleges, Sikes picked a target and told Bottorff to park nearby.

The new indictment alleges that once parked, Olson unpacked the vest and handed it to Sikes, who put it on M.S. Authorities allege that Bottorff handed M.S. a piece of paper and a pen, and Sikes directed her to write a note indicating that she was being held hostage and that if the teller did not fork over money, the vest would detonate.

Sikes told M.S. to give the note to the teller, get money and then return to the minivan, according to the allegations. The indictment accuses him of giving her a walkie-talkie so she could communicate with the other co-conspirators. The woman started walking toward the bank but did not go through with the plan and returned to the van.

The new indictment also includes more details about the arson charges and adds Bottorff as a defendant in count two, charging him with setting a malicious fire at the Walmart on East Interstate 65 Service Road South. Previously, only Sikes and Olson had been charged in that count.

The updated indictment also sheds more light on “The Walmart Manifesto,” a document sent to local media laying out a set of demands against the giant retailer. That document, “Declaration of War and Demands for the People,” supposedly written by a group called The Veterans Order, references the malicious fires and threatens additional fires.

But the new indictment alleges that the actual author was Bottorff, at the direction of Sikes. Other people, identified to the grand jury but not publicly, edited the document. Bottorff created the design and seal, and M.S. used that design to car the seal out of wood, according to the charges.

The indictment tracks phone calls made by the defendants on a “burner” phone that authorities allege Olson purchase at the Daphne Walmart on U.S. 98. The indictment also cites surveillance video and cell phone tower information that puts the defendants at the arson scenes.

The defendants stand accused of sending the manifesto to local, national and international news organizations.

“How many of these fires do we have to set for the news not to suppress this story and the evil caused by Walmart?” one email read. “We will not quit.”

Another message stated: ‘How long will the news continue to suppress this story and the reasons behind these fires? We will not stop.”

Sikes, Bottorff and Olson are scheduled to appear for an arraignment along with co-defendants Michael Bottorff and Quinton Olson, on April 20. They face five to 20 years in prison on the first three counts. The new robbery conspiracy charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years.