FBI Arrests Man Planning July 4th Terror Attack

 Alexa Lardieri

AN INDIVIDUAL WAS arrested over the weekend for allegedly planning a terrorist attack on July 4th in downtown Cleveland.

Authorities said in a press conference on Monday that Demetrius N. Pitts – aka Abdur Raheem Rafeeq – was arrested and charged in federal court with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said that Pitts was taken into custody on Sunday. He will appear in federal court later on Monday. Anthony said Pitts had expressed a desire to join a terrorist organization from 2015 to 2017 and recruit people to kill Americans.

Last week, Pitts told an undercover FBI agent that he was planning a terrorist attack on July 4 in Voinovich Park where fireworks are launched in Cleveland. According to Anthony, the park is close to a Coast Guard station and a federal building. Pitts took photographs of the area and video footage as part of reconnaissance for his attack, according to the FBI.

Anthony said Pitts told the undercover agent: "I did tell myself that their holiday is coming up. The Fourth of July Independence Day. What would hit them in the core. Blow up. Have a bomb. Blow up at the Fourth of July Parade."

During his meetings with the undercover FBI agent, Pitts also made comments related to hatred of the military and wanting to chop off heads and hands and dispose of bodies. He also pledged his allegiance to al-Qaeda multiple times, according to the FBI. According to Anthony, Pitts revealed he had plans for another attack in Philadelphia, where he used to reside.

Anthony said Pitts, who is an American citizen, has a criminal history including felonious assault and domestic violence.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said Pitts faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Herdmand said Pitts was "conducting reconnaissance" last week around downtown Cleveland "for what he thought was a large scale attack on the Fourth of July." Pitts was looking for locations to park a van that would be packed with explosives. He spoke about taking locations like St. John's Cathedral "off the map" and giving remote control cars packed with explosives to the children of military members.

According to Herdman, Pitts responded "I don't care" and "I have no regrets" when asked about the "carnage this would cause."

"This defendant by his own words and by his own deeds, wanted to attack our nation and its ideals … He also wanted to strike at the values that are at the very core of our nation," Herdman said. "He wanted us to be afraid to speak our minds. He also wanted us to be afraid to gather in public places. So I ask this week that we all continue to gather, continue to celebrate America … to continue to have our barbecues and continue to go see fireworks."

Herdman assured the public that law enforcement and the Justice Department are remaining vigilant and keeping the public safe. Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams echoed his statements, saying "we need to make sure we stay vigilant," and that law enforcement will be at every major event.

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Alexa Lardieri
11 October, 2018
Alexa Lardieri
05 October, 2018
Alexa Lardieri
04 October, 2018