HOUSTON -- If you saw Robert Talbot Jr. on the street, you probably wouldn’t give him a second look.
But some of the people who shared the house where he once rented a room will tell you there’s plenty to notice.
“I knew he was out in left field, real bad,” said Terry Denny, who often talked with Talbot. “And I figured he might come to reality if we could talk to him, deal with him, reason with him. But then I got afraid of him. I got afraid to go to sleep in this place with him being here.”
If a criminal complaint filed in federal court is true, his housemates’ fears seem justified. Talbot allegedly plotted to launch a violent anti-government campaign bankrolled by a series of deadly robberies, beginning with a bloody heist slated for Thursday.
Undercover FBI agents say they spent eight months investigating Talbot, meeting with him on several occasions to hear his elaborate plans to rob banks, kill law enforcement officers and blow up government buildings. Talbot believed the agents were on his side, court documents say, so he told them to acquire hand grenades and plastic explosives.
Prosecutors allege Talbot was the man behind a Facebook page for the “American Insurgent Movement” (AIM) that tried to recruit anti-government militants for “who want to restore America Pre-Constitutionally and look forward to stopping the Regime with action by bloodshed.”
The Facebook page displays months of anti-government postings, many of them stridently opposing gun control. Some of them directly encourage violence against bankers, Muslims and political leaders, including a post saying presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett should be tortured.
“Obamacare will cause you to lose your license and get warrent’s (sic) on you,” said one posting.
“It’s going to look terrific watching the bullets go through their brain while they beg for there (sic) lives,” said another message about elected officials advocating gun control.
Talbot allegedly quit his job shortly before he planned to execute an armored truck robbery, using plastic explosives in a plot to kill the driver and steal the money to bankroll a campaign of violent acts against the government. Court documents say he encouraged undercover FBI agents to commit murder during their robberies, telling them to kill anyone who worked for “the banking cartel.”
The criminal complaint, which specifically mentions threats against Bank of America and Chase Bank locations, claims Talbot last week conducted surveillance on a number of financial institutions in northwest Houston in the week before his arrest. He also allegedly followed armored trucks and monitored the movements of workers involved in transferring money.
Two days later, on March 22, Talbot allegedly sent $500 as a down payment for the explosive devices he had requested. Investigators claimed Talbot claimed to have quit his job and was preparing for an upcoming armored car robbery. Talbot and others met at a storage facility in Houston Thursday with the intent to conduct an armor car robbery that morning, according to investigators. Talbot allegedly placed two plastic explosive devices into his backpack and said he would put the explosives on the armored truck he intended to rob.
An FBI SWAT swooped in and arrested Talbot as investigators said he was en route to conduct the armored car robbery.
His former housemates said they often heard Talbot loudly playing anti-government videos in his bedroom. They didn’t seem especially surprised to hear that he had been charged in connection with an anti-government plot.
“He’s way out of touch with reality,” Denny said. “He had his world and everybody else lived in another one. And he was smarter than everybody else.”
Some of the people who knew him during his period at the group house scoffed at the notion that he could’ve really carried out his elaborate and violent plans, but others said it was more than plausible.
“Did Timothy McVeigh?” Terry asked. “And I believe this kid was as much or maybe even more savvy than Timothy McVeigh. Honestly I do. And if he had a Terry Nichols to go along with him, who knows what he would do? “
Dressed in the combat boots and dark green clothing he allegedly intended to wear during his foiled armored truck heist, Talbot stood before a federal judge Friday morning and quietly asked for a court-appointed lawyer who knew “common law and constitutional law.”
He remains in federal custody pending a court-hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning, charged with a variety of federal crimes. If he’s convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison.