An American-born citizen who federal authorities say recently scouted locations in Cleveland to attack people watching Fourth of July fireworks and talked of carrying out additional bombings has been charged with trying to support terrorism.
The arrest took place on Sunday after Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts met with an undercover agent, the FBI announced during a press conference Monday.
— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) July 2, 2018
The Free Beacon reports,
Pitts, who also used the name Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, told the undercover agent of his allegiance to al-Qaeda and to kill U.S. Military personnel, their families, federal agents and possibly attack Philadelphia where he used to live, according to authorities.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman said Pitts has been charged in federal court with one count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He could face 20 years in prison.
Pitts told the undercover agent his intention was most likely to bomb Cleveland’s Independence Day parade. He surveilled Voinovich Park and the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Cleveland.
Among Pitts’ plans were loading a van in downtown Cleveland with explosives, which would be used to destroy city landmarks, and giving toys filled with explosives to the children of Military members.
He first came to authorities’ attention after he posted several disturbing messages on Facebook.
“We as Muslim need to start training like this every day. We need to know how to shoot guns, throw hand grenades, hand-to-hand combat,” one post read.
Pitts was first investigated by the FBI field office in Cincinnati where he lived until he moved to Cleveland. He has a dangerous record that includes felonious assault, domestic violence, aggravated robbery, and carrying a concealed weapon.
Cleveland Police officials assured the public that they would have a robust presence in downtown Cleveland on July 4 despite Pitts’ arrest.