An ISIS supporter has been accused of plotting a machete attack on a Rochester, New York, restaurant on New Year’s Eve, federal authorities say.
Emanuel Lutchman, 25, was arrested on Wednesday and appeared in federal court Thursday, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York announced.
His alleged plot was uncovered through communications with a paid informant, the FBI says.
“According to the complaint, as part of Emanuel Lutchman’s attempt to provide material support to ISIL, he planned to kill innocent civilians on New Year’s Eve in the name of the terrorist organization.” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said in a statement. “Thankfully, law enforcement was able to intervene and thwart Lutchman’s deadly plans.”
Before Lutchman was arrested, the FBI says he recorded a video where he swore allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and claimed responsibility for the planned Rochester attack. He told an informant he had received direction from an overseas ISIS member.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lutchman Told the Informant ‘I Will Take a Life’
According to the criminal complaint, which you can read above, Lutchman met with the FBI’s informant on December 28, and told him he wanted to target a club or bar, saying he could sneak a bomb or plant an explosive inside. He also suggested they could kidnap a couple of people and kill them, the FBI says.
“Lutchman stated that they would need to wear masks during the operation so they would not get caught by law enforcement authorities,” according to the complaint. Lutchman passed a restaurant in Rochester, which has not been identified, and said it could be a target.
He later told the informant that since he doesn’t have money, their best plan would be to use knives.
“I will take a life, I don’t have a problem with that,” the FBI says Lutchman told the informant.
2. He Bought a Machete & Other Supplies at a Local Walmart
On December 30, Lutchman met again with the informant and they went to a Rochester area Walmart store to buy supplies for the attack, the FBI says.
According to the complaint, Lutchman didn’t have the money to buy the items, so the informant paid for them. They bought two black ski masks, zip-ties, two knives, a machete, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves.
Lutchman allegedly told the informant, “It’s going to get real after this. It’s just you, me and the Lord. We gotta do this, we gotta do this precise. If we grab somebody, they can’t live. They may identify the vehicle. They can’t live.”
He said the “operation is a go. We just gotta do it man. We got the knives, we got the gloves, we got the ammonia, so whatever the case may be,” according to the complaint.
3. He Is a ‘Self-Professed Muslim Convert’ With a Criminal History
According to the complaint, Lutchman is a U.S. citizen and “self-professed Muslim convert” with a criminal history dating back to 2006.
He has convictions in New York state court for second-degree robbery. He was convicted of that crime in 2006 and served about five years in prison, the FBI says. He also has previous “mental hygiene” arrests, according to court documents.
He claimed to have “received direction from an overseas ISIL member,” the FBI says.
Lutchman is married, according to the complaint.
The FBI says Lutchman began communicating online with a paid FBI informant in November and December 2015, telling him he was in contact with an ISIS member in Syria. He sent screenshots of the conversations with the “ISIS brother” to the FBI informant, according to the complaint.
Lutchman told the person in Syria he hates America and wanted to leave to join the Islamic State. But the alleged ISIS member said the Syrian borders were closed, and said Lutchman should prove himself by carrying out an attack in the United States, according to court documents.
The person identified as an ISIS member told Lutchman he is “behind enemy lines” and is close to the enemy. He told Lutchman “New years (sic) is here soon. Do operations and kill some kuffar,” meaning Americans.
4. He Faces Up to 20 Years in Prison on the Terror Charge
Lutchman was charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.
He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says.
“This New Year’s Eve prosecution underscores the threat of ISIL even in upstate New York but demonstrates our determination to immediately stop any who would cause harm in its name,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul said in a statement. “What began as an ISIL directive to harm the community ended with the arrest of this defendant and a message for any other individuals considering similar behavior – you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will be punished. While law enforcement is well equipped for such investigations, the public is reminded to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity. I assure members of the public that the excellent work of our law enforcement partners with the cooperation of the public is the best way to ensure the safety of our community.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam Cohen said “The FBI thwarted Emanuel Lutchman’s intent to kill civilians on New Year’s Eve. The FBI remains concerned about people overseas who use the Internet to inspire people in the United States to commit acts of violence where they live.”
Lutchman does not appear to have an active Facebook profile, but he seems to have openly showed his support for ISIS on a Google+ page. He made several posts a day, sharing photos, videos and other ISIS-related material.
Lutchman made several posts in the early hours of December 30, just before the FBI arrested him. In one post, he shared an image of a message saying “Don’t spend your time worrying about the things of the world. Worry about your nearness & obedience towards Allah. This is your ticket to Jennah (paradise). The Fire is promised to those who are disbelievers. Know that ours truggles are the Qadr (preordained) by Allah. So don’t worry. After the struggle comes ease.”
On December 29, he posted about a London couple accused of a terror plot, saying “May Allaah reward them for their niyyah n free them from the jail cell of the kuffar.”
5. The FBI Says There Has Been No Credible Threat of a New Year’s Eve ISIS Attack in the United States
The FBI says there has not been any credible threat to a United States city for an ISIS attack on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
Major cities, including New York City and Washington, D.C., have received vague threats of attacks in recent months from ISIS and its affiliates, but nothing specific. Security has been increased coast to coast for the holiday festivities.
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said said around 6,000 police officers will be on duty. CNN reports that in California there “will be more cameras watching the route of the Rose Bowl Parade” and that “more officers will be at the parade and later at a celebration at Grand Park.”