DENVER — At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, an Army veteran was arrested as he prepared to go to Colorado’s Capitol for an armed protest of the state’s lockdown restrictions.
The FBI found four pipe bombs inside Bradley Bunn’s house, devices he told agents he planned to use against any authorities who tried to raid his home and take his guns, according to court documents. He told a friend the bombs were powerful enough to turn a shielded breach team into “manageable sized parts,” federal prosecutors said.
A year and a half later, Bunn, 55, who pleaded guilty to making and possessing the bombs, is asking for leniency when he is sentenced Wednesday, with his lawyer arguing a line can be drawn from his combat experience to the declining mental health and delusional thinking that she claims led him to create the bombs. A psychiatrist concluded Bunn suffered from depression and paranoia, as well as complex post traumatic stress disorder that stemmed from both his Iraq combat experience and his childhood.
“Absent his active mental illnesses, it is extremely unlikely that he would have engaged in such behavior,” Dr. Doris Gundersen said in a report submitted by the defense.
Bunn’s lawyer, Lisa Polansky, has asked U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello to sentence him to time served, about 17 months, followed by supervised release, in part because she said he will not be able to get Veterans Administration treatment for his mental health problems if he is in prison.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday asked Arguello to sentence Bunn according to the normal sentencing guidelines, which could mean a sentence of around three years or longer, depending on the determination of his criminal history. The sentencing report prepared by the government with that information has not been made public.
“While the defendant’s prior military service is laudable, it must also be balanced with the danger posed by the defendant’s actions in the instant case,” they said in a filing that detailed the knife, handgun, high-capacity rifle magazines and other gear he had loaded in his truck when agents arrived at his home in Loveland, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver, on May 1, 2020.
Authorities have not publicly identified Bunn as member of an extremist group. However, Gundersen’s report notes he visited extremist, right-wing social media and other sites. It also says that in discussing his belief that the government would try to forcibly take his guns, Bunn mentioned the killing of Duncan Lemp in a 2020 police raid. Lemp is considered a martyr of the loosely-knit “boogaloo” anti-government movement.
Because of his assertion that the government wants to strip people of their rights and freedoms, including the right to bear arms, Gundersen said she suspected Bunn identifies with another group, the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group. But she said he would not confirm whether he was formally involved with them.
The number of current or former members of the military arrested for crimes considered ideologically motivated is relatively small. But it has grown in recent years, from an average of nearly seven a year from 1990 to 2010 to 16 per year from 2010 until now, excluding those arrested during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach, said Elizabeth Yates, a senior researcher on domestic radicalization at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Anti-government beliefs are the most common ideology among them, followed by white supremacy, she said.
According to defense filings, Bunn served in Iraq at the height of the war there in 2003 and 2004, and his platoon was ambushed as it made its way back to Al-Hawijah. A homemade bomb exploded, and Bunn suffered hearing loss and a suspected head injury.
Bunn was diagnosed with early onset PTSD and major depression at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center in 2005. He reported experiencing vivid flashbacks and panic attacks and being hypervigilant in public and private, among other symptoms. His marriage began to fall apart. He later lost custody of his four children, last seeing them in 2014.
Bunn showed some improvement through treatment provided by the VA but had anger issues that led to a “disruptive behavior flag” being put on his record for a time, court documents said.
In 2016, he started talking to a therapist about his belief that he could exorcise evil spirits, an idea he would become preoccupied with.
In January 2017, a treatment provider noted Bunn was paranoid and “possibly delusional.” A month later, a mental health team became concerned about his continued use of the prescription drug Adderall and the possibility it was “precipitating psychosis.”
In August 2019, when a doctor told Bunn he would need to be evaluated every three months to continue receiving Adderall, a stimulant, Bunn left treatment. He was not being treated when he was arrested.
Bunn told Gundersen, the psychiatrist, he planned to bring arms with him to the Colorado Capitol to lead patriots in a peaceful protest of COVID-19 restrictions and the state’s red flag law. The law, which Bunn had testified against earlier in 2020, allows the weapons of someone considered a threat to themselves or others to be confiscated with a judge’s order.
Bunn said he warned an unspecified sheriff of the group’s plans to climb the Capitol stairs and protest peacefully but also said that if authorities tried to arrest them, there would be a gunfight.
Bunn told the psychiatrist he was in a “bad place” when he was arrested and said he is glad no one got hurt.
When asked what he would have changed about what happened, he said: “It was a tough situation with the coronavirus and all the isolation. I still would have testified in front of legislators. But in hindsight, I wish I would have been patient. I wish I would have prayed more.”
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