According to Reuters, a man who discussed triggering a bomb during Cleveland’s Fourth of July celebration was arrested Sunday by the FBI after an undercover agent managed to meet with him. According to Stephen Anthony, the FBI’s head agent in Cleveland, Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts told him the following:
“What would hit them in the core?… Blow up. Have a bomb. Blow up at the Fourth of July parade.”
Pitts’ plans included a strike at Voinovich Bicentennial Park, the site of the city’s annual fireworks display. Anthony also told a news conference that Pitts was “willing to chop off hands and heads.” Demetrius N. Pitts, 48, of Maple Heights, also known as Abdur Raheem Rafeeq and as Salahadeen Osama Waleed, has been charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Pitts also told special agent Anthony he wanted to kill military personnel and their families, and that he had planned another attack in Philadelphia where he previously lived. The plans allegedly included St. John’s Cathedral, as well as handing out remote control cars packed with explosives to children of military servicemembers.
According to WKYC, the FBI has been investigating Pitts since December of 2017 after concerns arose over alleged statements of violent intentions on Facebook and his history of felonious assault, domestic violence, aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. In May, Pitts moved to the Cleveland area and the local FBI office took over the investigation, resulting in an arrest being made before Pitts’ planned attack could be carried out.
“He looked for locations to park a van that would be packed with explosives,” United States Attorney Justin Herdman said, adding that Pitts, a U.S. citizen who was reportedly radicalized on domestic soil, could face up to 20 years in prison. He also revealed that Pitts told undercover agents, “I don’t care. I have no regrets.”
According to Fox 8 Cleveland, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson made the following statement.
“I want to thank the FBI and all the members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force – men and women whose primary goal is to make Northeast Ohio safe… These Law Enforcement Partners continue to secure us against those who seek to disrupt our way of life through violence and the threat of terrorist acts.”
An affidavit filed by FBI agent Andrew Wilson is now available, which details the allegations against Demetrius N. Pitts and includes much of the conversations between the undercover agent and Pitts leading up to Sunday’s arrest.