Accused Walmart arsonist: ‘It’s not going to stop’
New court documents accuse Lillian resident of using lies, intimidation in plot to burn down Gulf Coast stores
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The reputed mastermind of a plot to burn down Walmart stores along the Gulf Coast admitted during an interrogation by the FBI to lying to his alleged accomplices and warned investigators that his arrest would not stop his “mission.”.
Excerpts from the FBI’s interview with Jeffery Sikes were part of a court filing by an attorney for co-defendant Quinton Olson.
“Well, it’s not going to stop,” Sikes told the investigators. “Everyone is going to keep going.”
In a separate filing, prosecutors indicated – in a rare move – that they may seek longer sentences for the defendants than called for under advisory guidelines.
Sikes, Olson and three others face charges of conspiracy to commit arson. Authorities allege that they set fires to Walmart stores in Mobile and Mississippi last year in an effort to force changes in the retailer’s business practices and other societal improvements. Sikes; his brother-in-lar Sean Bottorff; his stepson, Michael Bottorff; and Alexander Olson – Quinton Olson’s brother – also face robbery conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors contend that Sikes directed Sean Bottorff to write a seven-page “manifesto” sent to media organizations laying out a series of demands. Titled “Declaration of War and Demands for the People,” the document railed against the company’s business practices and threatened more fires if demands were not met. Those included higher pay and more affordable health benefits for Walmart workers.
Sikes did not confess to setting the fires, but he did make several self-incriminating statements about other activities, according to the court filing. That document cites statements Sikes made that he had dedicated his entire life to the “mission” and states that he told investigators that he belonged to an organization.
“I have the Black Angels that I’m a part of. … Trying initiatives to help people,” he said, according to the transcript quoted in Olson’s court filing.
Co-defendant seeks to be tried separately
Barre Dumas, Quinton Olson’s lawyer, argued in the court filing that his client should be tried separately from the other defendants so that the statements of Sikes could be used at trial if prosecutors do not use them.
“Defendant Quinton Olson seeks to sever his trial from Sikes who made these incriminating statements and/or to assure the admittance of these statements as they are relevant and probative that Sikes was a lying, manipulative actor who had engaged in violence to accomplish his mission,” Dumas wrote. “These statements go to the heart of Olson’s defense in this case.”
At the very least, Dumas told FOX10 News, he hopes to be able to be able to tell jurors about Sikes’ statements from opening statements.
“He’s the bad actor in all this,” he said. “He was the driving personality.”
Sikes’ lawyer, Tom Walsh, declined to comment.
Sikes and the co-defendants were living in a house in Lillian at the time of the alleged offenses.
The robbery conspiracy charge stems from an alleged attempt to hold up a bank in Mississippi. The indictment alleges that Sikes, Sean Bottorf and Alexander Olson hatched the plan so send a woman wearing a device rigged to look like a bomb into the bank on June 4 of last year. But the woman changed her mind and did not go through with it, according to court records.
The indictment identifies the woman by her initials only. But that woman, Mikayla Scheele, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to maliciously damage and destroy by means of fire the four Walmarts – one on Rangeline Road, one on East Interstate 65 Service Road and locations in Biloxi and Gulfport. She admitted that she lit a fire at the Rangeline Road Walmart’s hardware section on May 28 of last year.
‘I lied to everybody there’
Sikes told investigators that he had to “go to a certain degree to get things going” and admitted that he falsely told his co-defendants that there was a pardon in place.
“I lied to everybody there because I knew it would protect them if something came out, is what my goal was,” he said, according to the court filing.
Sikes admitted that he also had not been honest with Scheele.
During questioning by the FBI, Sikes confessed to using legal and illegal means achieve his objectives.
“But you have to get people’s attention,” he said, according to the transcript.
The court ruling also indicates that Sikes told the FBI, “I’ve put pressure on people. I’m not going to lie about it.”
Sikes declined to explain what that meant but added that it got results.
“I don’t regret it,” he said. “It got the outcome I was wanting.”
Dumas argued in a separate filing that the charges against his client should be dismissed.
“At most, even taking all allegations as true, they establish that Olson communicated via cell phone with others following the events which form the basis of the conspiracy charged in the Superseding Indictment,” he wrote. “Proof of those facts is problematic for the government as they include no content of any of those communications nor do they establish more than the defendants were the registered owners of the devices connected.”
Dunas argued there is no evidence pointing this his client’s participation in a conspiracy, notwithstanding allegations that Olson committed unrelated crimes.
“The allegation that clothes were stolen does not establish participation in a conspiracy to damage or destroy property by fire or explosive,” he wrote.
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