The FBI on Monday announced the arrest of a 21-year-old Ohio man on terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to attack two synagogues in the US city of Toledo, Ohio. He has been charged with one count of attempting to provide material support for the Islamic State terror group.
According to the Department of Justice, Damon M. Joseph was arrested on Friday after purchasing 2 AR-15 rifles and talking of killing many people, including a rabbi.
The affidavit filed in US District Court in Toledo said Joseph was inspired by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting attack in October, which killed 11 Jewish worshipers.
Earlier in December, Joseph told an undercover FBI agent that he was identifying synagogues in the Toldeo area to carry out a mass shooting attack in the name of the Islamic State. He told the undercover agent that Jews were evil, and that the Tree of Life Synagogue victims “got what was coming to them.”
“I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually,” Joseph wrote to the agent in one communication. “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah. They wouldn’t even expect [an attack] in my area.”
According to the affidavit, “on December 4, Joseph stated he was deciding between two synagogues in the area to attack. He said that the choice would depend on “which one will have the most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home.'”
Two days later, Joseph decided what synagogue he would be targeting, and “stated he had conducted research to determine when the Jewish sabbath was so that more people would be present. Joseph pulled up photographs of the inside of the synagogue and said he wanted the attack to begin in the sanctuary.”
The Department of Justice said that Joseph had drawn authorities’ attention earlier this year by posting photographs of knives and firearms on social media, including one originally distributed by the media wing of IS.
He expressed hatred for Americans – singling out gays, Christians, Catholics, and Jews, according to the FBI.
If convicted, Joseph faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Anti-Defamation League quickly responded to the news, praising authorities for thwarting the attack.
“We are tremendously grateful to law enforcement at both the federal and local levels for apprehending the suspect, and for working so diligently to prevent terror from hitting our community,” said Jeremy Pappas, ADL Cleveland regional director. “The Jewish community is still grieving following the October attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We can never let that happen again.”
The Secure Community Network (SCN), a national Jewish community initiative, praised the FBI “for their ongoing and thorough work on behalf of the safety and security of the Jewish community,” and noted that Joseph had been under surveillance for nearly a year before his arrest.
Michael Masters, SCN National Director and CEO, said in a statement that there is “no known ongoing threat against the Jewish community” related to Joseph’s actions. He called Joseph’s plans “highly calculated and inspired by hatred.”
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said in a statement: “We cannot tolerate hate directed toward people of Jewish faith, or of any other religion, and last month’s mass-killing at a Pittsburgh synagogue is a reminder of just how real this threat is. As Hanukkah concludes this evening, all Toledoans should reflect on the holiday’s themes of liberation, identity, and most importantly, freedom from religious persecution.”