Updated: Charlotte man arrested in Michigan Capitol bomb threat

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas
    Updated, 3:04 p.m., 1/8/21

    A Charlotte man has been arrested by the Michigan State Police (MSP) and charged with multiple felonies after he allegedly reported that there was a bomb at the Michigan Capitol building Thursday. Authorities quickly determined the threat to be false.

    Charges could be brought Friday against Michael Varrone, 48, following an MSP investigation. Varrone was arrested outside his residence Thursday without incident by the agency’s Emergency Support Team and Fugitive Team. Varrone is at the Lansing City Jail.

    Varrone allegedly called a control operator at the Capitol building at 6:40 a.m. Thursday and urged evacuation because it was going to explode. The employee immediately reported the bomb threat to MSP. The building was ordered closed briefly afterward. 

    The Legislature is not currently in session, although staff still typically is in the building. Capitol staff were then notified to ensure their safety and the building – which had already been closed to the public – was closed to staff. Authorities performed a sweep of the premises and by 9 a.m. confirmed there was no real threat. The building then reopened.

    Updated: Michigan Capitol reopens at 9 a.m. after another threat

    He was arraigned today before Magistrate Laura Millmore in 54-A District Court in Lansing on two counts of false report or threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony; and one count of false report or threat of bomb/harmful device, a four-year felony. One count of false report or threat of terrorism is related to a phone call Varrone allegedly made in December in which he threatened the life of state Rep. Cynthia Johnson. The other two charges stem from Thursday’s reported bomb threat.

    The court set Varrone’s bond at $50,000 cash.

    “Threats to our democracy must not be tolerated, and my office will work tirelessly to ensure the people who work and visit our Capitol can do so safely,” Attorney General Dan Nessel said. “I am grateful this incident did not result in any serious injury or harm. However, I hope this incident and the disgraceful tragedy that occurred Wednesday at our nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C., can serve as reminders of the security measures we must work to maintain and improve to protect the sanctity of our democracy and the safety of our people.”

    The threat came a day after the U.S. Capitol was overrun by a pro-Trump mob. Five people are dead after the riot, including one police officer.

    The Michigan Capitol was last shut down for a threat Dec. 14 when the Electoral College met to certify Biden’s victory in Michigan. Last October, right-wing extremists allegedly plotted to blow up the Capitol and kidnap and kill Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.