The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested an Ohio man for allegedly planning a terrorist attack during Cleveland’s Fourth of July celebrations, authorities said Monday.
Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, 48, was taken into custody Sunday and has been charged with attempting to provide support to al-Qaida after the FBI discovered messages he sent on Facebook, FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said at a news conference.
Anthony said Pitts, who is an American citizen and was radicalized in the U.S., came under FBI surveillance last year after he made posts on social media expressing a hatred of the U.S. and a desire to join the terror group.
Pitts’ arrest came after he met with an undercover FBI agent who he believed was an al-Qaida sympathizer and told the agent about his plan to plant a bomb at a parade celebrating the U.S.Independence Day holiday and intended to target other locations in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
“I’m gonna be downtown when the thing go off. I’m gonna be somewhere cuz I wanna see it go off,” Pitts told the agent, the FBI said in court documents.
According to the officials, he also told the agent he would travel to downtown Cleveland to conduct surveillance on potential targets. He was given a phone by the agent and a bus pass to carry out the mission. Pitts later returned the phone to the agent with video and pictures of potential bomb targets, including Voinovich Park and the downtown U.S. Coast Guard station.
At first, Pitts talked to the agent about placing bombs in small remote-controlled toy cars but later said they should detonate a bomb-laden vehicle.
Anthony said it was unclear how close Pitts was to carrying out his threats, but he said authorities could not sit back and wait to find out.
“We don’t have the luxury of hoping an individual decides not to harm someone or get others to act,” he added.
Pitts faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
This article provided by NewsEdge.