Aug. 26, 2008 -- Federal prosecutors in Colorado have charged three men, one of whom reportedly has strong ties to a white supremacist gang, with weapons and drug charges stemming from an investigation into an alleged plot to use a rifle to kill Sen. Barack Obama, according to court documents.
Law enforcement sources said the men planned to seek a high vantage point overlooking Invesco Field and open fire with .22 and .270 scope-equipped rifles, though federal authorities have emphasized that there was no immediate, credible threat to the Illinois senator.
Obama, who will travel to Denver this week, is set to accept the Democratic Party's nomination for president and speak at the stadium Thursday.
A traffic stop launched the investigation and authorities arrested Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28, Nathan Johnson, 32, and Shawn Robert Adolph, 33, as part of the inquiry. All three men had tattoos of white supremacist imagery, authorities told ABC News.
Federal law enforcement sources described Adolph as a "longtime white supremacist thug" and added that at least one of the men is reportedly linked to the notorious Sons of Silence motorcycle gang.
Federal authorities filed a criminal complaint against Adolph today, charging him with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of body armor by a violent felon and possession and intent to distribute methamphetamine.
The court documents also referenced drug and weapons charges against Johnson, and a meth possession charge against Gartrell.
All three men had prior criminal records, and at the time of his arrest, Adolph was considered a fugitive, having allegedly dodged a July court appearance in Kit Carson County in eastern Colorado, where he is also facing weapons and theft charges.
According to an affidavit filed by an Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent in the federal case against Adolph, an unidentified female "provided information regarding possible threats made against presidential candidate Barack Obama."
The unidentified female told a U.S. Secret Service special agent "that Adolf, Gartrell, and Johnson were all commenting on how Obama was a 'n-----' and further stated that they 'could not believe how close he was to becoming president and that no n----- should ever live in the White House,'" according to the court documents.
The affidavit also summarizes a Secret Service agent's interview with Johnson. The agent, identified by the last name "Torres" in the documents, "confronted Johnson regarding discrepancies in his statements about the recovered firearms, and Johnson began to cry and admitted that Adolf had in fact threatened to kill Obama on a prior occasion," according to the affidavit.
The agent "again asked Johnson whether Adolf and Gartrell were present in Denver, CO to kill Barak [sic] Obama and Johnson stated 'yes.' Johnson then told SA Torres that there were no political reasons for wanting to kill Obama, and that the only reason to kill Obama is because Obama is black," the document said.
ABC News was unable to locate attorneys for the three men, and the court records did not list counsel for the defendants.
According to the court papers, Johnson stated that after taking time to "chill and do drugs," Adolph and a female companion "began making threatening statements toward Obama," including "statements about killing Obama with a camera with a gun hidden inside the lens. ... Johnson related that Adolf then commented that it wouldn't matter if he killed Obama because he was going to jail on his pending felony charges anyway."
The investigation started after police stopped Gartrell for erratic driving at 1:37 a.m. Sunday, according to law enforcement sources and the court documents.
After checks revealed that Gartrell had a suspended license, police searched the rented Dodge Ram truck he was driving and found two bulletproof vests, wigs, ski masks, walkie-talkies, methamphetamine, a .270 Remington and a .22 Ruger rifle with scope, sources told ABC News. Police said Monday that they believe one of the guns had been stolen.
A law enforcement official told ABC News that Gartrell implicated Johnson and Adolph, whom police later arrested at two separate Denver-area hotels. Authorities said Adolph jumped out a sixth-floor window to avoid arrest. He broke his ankle; medical personnel at a nearby hospital treated him for that injury, police said.
As for the alleged plot to assassinate Obama, sources said that with wind movement and distance, such a shot would not have had a chance of succeeding, and described the alleged plot as "crude."
Additionally, a senior U.S. government official said that the U.S. Secret Service has set up wide perimeter around the venue, which would have kept a shooter from accessing the area, and that guns allegedly in the possession of one of the suspects were not high-powered enough for a shot to travel a long distance.
The senior U.S. government official added that authorities believe the men have apparent methamphetamine problems and would not likely be capable of pulling off any attack.
All three men remain in law enforcement custody pending an initial appearance before a judge.