A 40-year-old man has been arrested in a plot to bomb a synagogue in South Florida, federal authorities say.
James Medina was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, the Associated Press reports.
He had planned to detonate an explosive device at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, which is home to a synagogue, school and meeting halls for about 800 congregants.
Court documents and further details in the case have not yet been made public. He was caught in a FBI sting, WSVN-TV reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was Planning to Throw an Explosive Device Over a Synagogue Wall on Passover, Investigators Say
James Medina was snagged in a FBI sting when agents went undercover as “terrorists,” WSVN-TV reports.
Law enforcement sources told the news station that Medina wanted to throw an explosive device over one of the Jewish center’s walls on Friday, the second-to-last day of Passover.
Medina was meeting with an undercover agent to obtain what he believed to be an explosive device when he was arrested, Local 10 News reports.
2. Medina Threatened to ‘Bomb’ a Family & Go on a Shooting ‘Rampage’ at Their Church in 2012, Police Say
Medina, a glassmaker and longtime South Florida resident, has a criminal record, including a 2012 arrest for sending a series of violent threats to a family via text message, the Sun Sentinel reports.
The family received 50 text messages, including one threatening to bomb them and then go on a shooting rampage at their church, the newspaper reports.
“By next week, Ima bomb ya [curse word] … Bring him! I will buy a gun [off] the street and rampage [family member’s] church. Murder she wrote,” the text read, according to an affidavit from the case.
“Look & see how Im gonna get u back, u will be sorry. I’ll be smiling behind bars. I don’t mind going to jail for this,” Medina wrote.
He was also arrested on marijuana possession charges in 2013 and burglary charges in 2012.
3. The Jewish Center Says the Synagogue & School Were ‘Never at Risk’
In a message on Facebook, the Aventura Jewish Center said it was told by the FBI that the synagogue and school were never truly in danger:
The leadership of our congregation has been briefed by law enforcement and Jewish community security officials about this situation. They assured us that the synagogue and school were never at risk at any time during the investigation and arrest, and that there are no credible threats directed against us at the present time.
Please be assured that our security protocols are well in place, which includes close coordination with local law enforcement agencies to insure the security of our facility and the safety of our members, children, staff and visitors. We will continue to review our procedures in consultation with our security consultant and law enforcement officials to take whatever measures are necessary to insure the safety and security of our synagogue and members.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the area where the Jewish center is located, also issued a statement about the arrest.
“I am deeply grateful that the FBI arrested this individual before he was allegedly able to do harm to the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center and its congregants, so many of whom are my constituents, who were observing the end of Passover,” Wasserman Schultz said in the statement. “I will be in contact with federal and local authorities immediately and working with them to ensure our community’s places of worship – no matter what faith – are safe for all those who worship in them.
“As the month of May begins and we recognize Jewish American Heritage Month, this attempted attack is a harsh reminder that there are many in our community who are motivated by bigotry and violence. As a community and a nation we must work together to confront this kind of hatred,” she said.
4. Authorities Say Medina, Who Is Homeless, May Have Been Inspired by Anti-Semitism
Law enforcement officials have portrayed Medina as being anti-Semitic, according to the Miami Herald.
Sources told WSVN-TV that Medina may have recently converted to Islam.
The Jubilee Center of South Broward told Local News 10 that Medina is homeless and often eats lunch at the shelter. Its executive director, LeAnna Vasquez, told the news station she was “shocked” to learn of Medina’s arrest.
“I really would not have expected that,” Vasquez told Local News 10.
5. Medina Is Being Held at a Federal Correctional Facility Before His First Court Appearance
Medina was taken into custody on Friday, but his arrest was not made public immediately because authorities were searching for any additional suspects.
He is being held at a federal detention center and is scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reports.