A Northwest Ohio resident admitted Tuesday that he planned to carry out a mass shooting at a synagogue to show his allegiance to ISIS.
Damon Joseph, 23, of Holland pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Toledo to charges of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to commit a hate crime. He faces 20 years in prison when Judge Jack Zouhary sentences him Sept. 14.
Authorities arrested Joseph on Dec. 7, 2018, moments after he grabbed a duffel bag that contained two semi-automatic rifles from an undercover FBI agent’s car. Unbeknownst to Joseph, agents disabled the weapons.
Jewish community leaders condemned the plot and praised federal authorities for stopping it before anyone was hurt. After Joseph’s arrest, the Anti-Defamation League cited the fact that the plot came just weeks after 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“It’s shocking to hear another attack was being planned,” Jeremy Pappas, then-the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Cleveland regional office, said.
The investigation began when the FBI learned of Joseph’s postings on social media. Undercover agents, posing as sympathizers, connected with Joseph online about ISIS, and he sent videos about the terrorist group. He spoke, however, of wanting to do more, records show.
In October, just days after the shootings in Pittsburgh, Joseph discussed his hatred of Jews, prosecutors said.
“My opinion is the Jews are evil, and they get what’s coming to them,” Joseph told an agent, adding, “I don’t feel bad at all considering what they’re doing in Palestine.”
He also told the undercover officer, “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation.”
Joseph went by the name Abdullah Ali Yusuf. The charges said he sought to “harm members of the Toledo Jewish community” at an undisclosed location.
Besides speaking with undercover officers online, Joseph also recruited a person whom he believed was an ISIS supporter. That person also was an FBI agent.
On Dec. 6, 2018, he met with the agent and drove to a synagogue. He discussed the attack and how he would carry it out, authorities said. Joseph said he wanted to obtain two rifles and two pistols. He feared that “30 rounds wouldn’t be enough and stated that he wanted to cause a massacre,” prosecutors said in documents.
The next day, the agent provided the rifles and arrested him moments later.
“In an oral statement to law enforcement officers, [Joseph] confirmed his intention to carry out the attack and his desire to cause mass casualties in support of ISIS,” prosecutors wrote.
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