An american-born citizen who federal authorities say that recently explored locations in Cleveland to attack people-watching Fourth of July fireworks, and spoke of performing additional bombings has been charged with trying to support terrorism.
The federal authorities said Monday that Demetrius Pitts had expressed his support for al-Qaeda for more than a year and talked about setting bombs off at a 4th of July parade and later in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Pitts, who lived most recently in Maple Heights, Ohio, was by the federal court on Monday in Cleveland. There were no legal documents specify a lawyer for him, and he could not be reached for comment.
Pitts was Sunday arrested after meeting with an undercover agent and was indicted for attempting to support a terrorist organization.
FBI agent Stephen Anthony said that it was unclear how close the Pitts was to carry out his threats, but he said that authorities could not sit back and wait to find out.
“We don’t have the luxury of hoping an individual decided not to harm someone or for others to act,” he said.
Anthony said that Pitts, 48, had been radicalized in the U.S., but he had no information that Pitts had traveled through the country.
The authorities first started looking Pitts in 2017, when he lived in the Cincinnati area, after he made Facebook posts threatening violence against the US, Anthony said. Pitts moved to Cleveland in May.
Pitts began the meeting with an undercover agent and discussed several ways to carry out an attack, according to the court documents. Pitts also talked about his hatred for the AMERICAN army, Anthony said.
An undercover agent at the end of June gave Pitts a bus pass and a cell phone that he thought were al-Qaida supporters, so that he could go downtown and look at locations for the performance of his attacks, according to a complaint filed by the authorities.
Pitts shot videos of potential targets, such as a federal building and U. S. Coast Guard station, and then turned the phone last week, believe the photos and videos would be given to al-Qaida members, the document said.
In recent weeks, Pitts also talked about wanting to travel to Philadelphia, and on Sunday he told an undercover agent he wanted to conduct reconnaissance for an attack with a truck full of explosives, similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, authorities said in the complaint.
Pitts told the agent that Philadelphia would be the “great goal” and that the attack “will be done” on the Day of the Work, according to a statement. Pitts also pointed at potential targets, including the Philadelphia City Hall and federal building, the court document said.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “President Trump praises the work of the ministry of justice and the FBI in helping to stop this would-be attacker.”