An Army vet from Missouri is accused of plotting a terrorist attack – he allegedly thought for ISIS – targeting Presidents’ Day in Kansas City, Missouri.
In reality, Robert Hester Jr. was plotting with an undercover FBI employee who was part of a sting the government set up when it became alarmed by Hester’s anti-American social media posts, according to the government affidavit attached with the federal charges.
Hester, 25, is a U.S. citizen who was born in and still living in Missouri at the time of his arrest. The plot on Presidents’ Day would have targeted buses, trains and a train station, the affidavit alleges.
Hester’s disturbing social media posts led authorities to investigate him in the first place. According to the affidavit, one of his pages had the profile description “Zionist Jew Pig Redneck Hunting Super Assassin.” He also allegedly spoke of creating a new group called the Lion Guard to guard “the Muslim community.” He named the group after a children’s cartoon, the affidavit says.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hester Is Accused of Plotting a Terrorist Attack & Saying He Wanted to Be ‘Smarter Than’ the Boston Marathon Bombers
The affidavit says Hester allegedly met with an undercover FBI employee he was told was representing ISIS and planning a mass casualty attack. “Hester indicated through his statements and actions that he was ready and willing to participate and assist in the ‘plot,’” the affidavit says.
The affidavit accuses Hester of obtaining boxes of roofing nails at the request of the undercover operative to “maximize the number of casualties.” When the operative showed him weapons, including machine guns and pipes for bombs, he “provided information on storage units that could be used to hold the weapons and agreed to obtain additional supplies for the operation,” reported the affidavit.
He allegedly said things like, “Government officials also need to be taken care of but we must hurt the economy.” He said he wanted to shoot kufr with an AK 47, which the affidavit says means non believers or infidels. He brought his two young children to a meeting with the undercover operative, the government contends.
Hester allegedly told the undercover operative that the local mosque’s teachings were “moderate and very watered down.” He said yes when asked if he was “looking for an Islamic state,” the affidavit accuses.
He also allegedly told the informant that they should “be smarter than the Boston Marathon bombers, and stated that he remembered all of his military training, including how to clear a room or building, how to use weapons and military movements.”
2. Hester Wrote Facebook Pages in Arabic & Spread Conspiracy Theories About the Dallas & Baton Rouge Police Shooters
Hester’s Facebook page says he was a 68W Health Care Specialist at U.S. Army who lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He is married and from Columbia, Missouri. The page contains family photos but also Islamic symbols and photos of guns, as well as conspiracy theories about the Baton Rouge police shooter.
In July, a post on his page read, “Need a break before I start breaking necks #fedup.” One comment about George W. Bush in a post about deaths in Iraq says, “Bush family scum of earth.” His page posted about atrocities against Muslims, and questioned the official accounts about the Baton Rouge and Dallas police shootings, passing on a post that theorized the Baton Rouge shooter is not really dead.
Another post read, “Democracy causes violence.” The page also shared posts about ISIS and the Nice, France Bastille Day terrorist attack.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Hester also had a Facebook page in the name of Rami Talib. The last public post on that site reads, “Apparently its ok for the police in America to kill brothers who are laying on there backs no threat to anyone…may Allah have mercy on those two brothers killed this week. #corruptjustice.”
3. Hester Allegedly Spoke of Possible Targets Ranging From Military Bases to Wall Street
Hester allegedly engaged online with undercover personnel working for the FBI and said the U.S. government should be overthrown and suggested “hitting” the government hard, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says he cited potential targets, including “oil production, military bases, federal places, government officials, and Wall Street” and allegedly said “any government building in DC would get attention of everyone.”
The affidavit accuses Hester of saying he wanted a “global jihad.”
KMBC quoted the U.S. attorney as saying of Hester: “First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States. He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims. He readily participated in the preparations for an attack, provided materials and resources for an attack, and voiced his intent to carry out an attack. I commend the FBI for protecting the public from a security threat.”
4. Hester Served a Short Stint in the Army but Ran Afoul of Regulations
Hester enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2012, according to the affidavit accompanying the charges. He completed basic training including firearms and small-unit combat tactics. However, he was “cited for numerous violations of U.S. Army regulations,” said the affidavit, and he then received a general discharge in mid-2013.
The Rami Talib Facebook page says: “3 things I will fight for Allah Islam and my family everything else is irrelevant.”
The indictment says Hester went by other names, such as Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki, Junaid Muhammad, Rabbani Junaid Muhammad, Rami Talib, and Ali Talib Muhammad “while attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
He was also arrested in October 2016 after an incident in a parking lot of a grocery store in which he allegedly threw a pocket knife through a plate-glass window after an argument with his wife. He was released on bail on a felony charge. In January he violated his bond conditions by testing positive for marijuana. He pleaded guilty to felony property damage and unlawful use of a weapon and was released pending a March sentencing hearing, according to the affidavit.
5. Hester Had Converted to Islam & His Wife Is Pregnant With His Third Child
According to the federal affidavit, Hester posted material on social media accounts that indicated he had “converted to Islam, expressed animus toward the United States, and posted photos of weapons and the ISIS flag, among other material, suggesting an adherence to radical ideology and a propensity for violence.”
Concerned about the social media posts, the FBI took other steps to determine how far he would go. According to the Kansas City Star, he was “charged in U.S. District Court of Kansas City with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.”
The newspaper reported that his wife is pregnant with his third child but declined to comment.