The FBI Cleveland Field Office just held a press conference detailing the arrest of Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts aka Abdur Raheem Rafeeq on Sunday morning for planning a possible terror attack during Independence Day celebrations later this week. Among the sites Pitts scouted were Voinovich Park and the U.S. Coast Guard station.
According to the FBI, the investigation into Pitts began last year after a tip indicated that he was making extremist statements and expressing support for Al-Qaeda. The case was originally overseen by the FBI office in Cincinnati, where Pitts resided at the time, and then transferred when he moved to Cleveland this past May.
Pitts, a convicted violent felon, had expressed his intent to conduct U.S.-based terror attacks and his support for Al-Qaeda.
During a meeting last week with an undercover FBI agent, Pitts suggested bombing the July 4th parade, and then later scouted potential attack sites. The FBI states he intended to park a van with explosives downtown. He also discussed giving remote controlled cars filled with explosives to children of military personnel and a possible attack in Philadelphia, where he used to live.
According to WKYC, Pitts allegedly told an 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.”
Authorities state that Pitts talked about targeting St. John’s Cathedral, and gifting cars packed with explosives and shrapnel to the children of military members, according to WKYC.
“Just last week, this defendant was walking around downtown Cleveland conducting reconnaissance on what he thought was a large-scale attack planned for the Fourth of July,” United States Attorney Justin Herdman said. “He looked for locations to park a van that would be packed with explosives.”
Pitts allegedly looked to target Voinovich Park and the U.S. Coast Guard Station.
“On Sunday during his final meeting with an undercover agent, authorities say Pitts expressed allegiance to Al-Qaeda and discussed his desire to kill military personnel and their families. He also allegedly wanted to conduct a future attack in Philadelphia, a place he previously lived,” according to WKYC.
Authorities stated that Pitts made some “disturbing” Facebook posts, with comments urging other Muslims to learn how to shoot guns and throw hand grenades, WKYC reports. An undercover agent met with Pitts to see if he was a threat to national security.
“Additional conversations with extremely concerning statements of intentions made by Pitts are specified in the federal complaint,” said Stephen Anthony, FBI Special Agent in Charge. “They include topics such as hatred for the military, wanting to chop off heads and hands and disposing of bodies.”