An Amtrak train was traveling through rural Nebraska in the early morning hours of Oct. 22 last year when it came to a sudden, surprising stop. Even the conductors were unsure what had happened.
“We lunged forward in our seats and all the power went out, it went completely black in the train car,” passenger Bobbie Garris told NTV. “We could smell something burning and I’m going to guess that was the brakes.”
When train workers noticed the eastbound California Zephyr braking at 2 a.m., the assistant conductor went searching for the cause. What he found was Taylor Wilson, 26, sitting at the engineer’s seat in the train’s follow engine. Wilson had broken into a restricted area of the train and was “playing with the controls,” according to the FBI, until workers and others were able to stop him and subdue, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.
Wilson’s train had been traveling from Sacramento, Calif., to St. Louis, Mo., with nearly 200 passengers on board. At the time of the incident, Wilson was charged in district court with use of a weapon to commit a felony and criminal mischief, NTV reports.
But now the FBI says that Wilson, of St. Charles, Mo., has ties to a white supremacist group and has shown interest in “killing black people,” according to a court affidavit unsealed this week. The FBI also said Wilson could have been planning to commit criminal acts or acts of terrorism on the train, 1011 Now reports.
Wilson has been charged in federal court with terrorism attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
As the FBI began investigating Wilson, they say they found that he had attended an August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. That rally left one woman who was demonstrating against the white supremacists dead.
After his initial arrest in October, Wilson was released Dec. 11 on $100,000 bond, the Journal Star reports.
Just days later, though, a search warrant was obtained for Wilson’s Missouri home. When the FBI spoke with Wilson’s roommate, he told the FBI that Wilson had a secret panel behind the refrigerator, NTV reports.
During their search, the FBI found the well-hidden compartment behind the fridge, and uncovered a trove of weapons and related items, including: “a tactical vest, 11 AR-15 ammunition magazines with approximately 190 rounds of ammunition, one drum-style ammunition magazine for a rifle, 100 rounds of 9mm ammo, white supremacy documents and paperwork, several additional handgun and rifle magazines, gunpowder, ammunition reloading supplies, and a pressure plate,” according to the affidavit reviewed by 1011 Now.
Wilson was arrested again, this time taken into federal custody, on Dec. 23, the Journal Star reports.
During booking in October when he was arrested, Wilson was found to be in possession of a business card from the National Socialist Movement in Detroit, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers “one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the United States,” according to the World-Herald.
The night of his October arrest, the train workers and passengers had to hold down Wilson on the ground for about an hour as the nearest local deputy headed to the stopped train in rural southwestern Nebraska, according to 1011 Now.
As the deputy handcuffed Wilson, the deputy discovered a loaded speedloader and a loaded .38 caliber handgun in the waistband of Wilson’s pants, the TV station reports. And in Wilson’s backpack, authorities uncovered three more speedloaders, .38 ammunition, a hammer and a knife.
Wilson was taken to the Furnas County Jail at the time.