Washington D.C. Metro Transit police officer Nicholas Young is accused of plotting to help ISIS and once wore a “Jihadi John” Halloween costume that included a headless hostage, a complaint says.
The criminal complaint said Young – a social studies teacher’s son who grew up in Virginia not far from Mount Vernon – claimed he “dressed up as a Nazi” and “collects Nazi memorabilia” and showed a “tattoo of a German eagle on his neck.” The complaint says he praised the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in France, calling those terrorists “brothers.”
The Washington Post says Young, 36, from Fairfax, Virginia, was “charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.” The FBI had been monitoring and recording Young for years after discovering he was associated with other men accused of terrorism, including a man who posted threats about the “South Park” creators, said The U.S. Attorney’s office.
There was “no pending threat to the DC transportation system,” WBT said. However, the U.S. Attorney’s press release says Young claimed he was stockpiling weapons and that people would only “find out what he was going to do after it happened,” the criminal complaint said. He also claimed he traveled to Libya to fight against Muammar Gaddafi, the complaint says.
“On behalf of the Metro Transit Police Department, I want to thank the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia for their investigative work leading to today’s indictment,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik in a statement released to Heavy.
“This investigation began with concerns that were reported by the Metro Transit Police Department, and it reinforces that, as citizens, we all have a duty to report suspicious activity whenever and wherever it occurs.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Young Met With a Man Accused of Plotting a Suicide Bombing at The U.S. Capitol & Dressed Up As ‘Jihadi John’ By Stuffing Paper In a Jumpsuit, The Complaint Says
Young was interviewed about a domestic violence incident in 2015 and revealed during the interview that he had dressed up as “Jihadi John” for a 2014 Halloween party that he attended with a friend, the criminal complaint says.
To create the costume, Young said he stuffed “an orange jumpsuit with paper to portray a headless hostage, and he carried that around with him throughout the party,” the criminal complaint contended. Young faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The complaint also says Young associated with other men accused of terrorism-related activity.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s news release, “Several meetings Young had with an undercover law enforcement officer in 2011 included another of Young’s acquaintances, Amine El Khalifi, who later pleaded guilty to charges relating to attempting a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building in 2012.”
In 2012, The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that El-Khalifi, 20, of Alexandria, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for seeking to “bring down the U.S. Capitol, one of our nation’s iconic symbols,” the release said.
The undercover officer once shared a restaurant meal with Young and El Khalifi, the complaint said. Young told “Khalifi to be careful about his online posts,” said the criminal complaint. At the restaurant meeting, Young said “that one of the greatest shaheeds is a convert who eventually fights the kaffirs for the Muslims,” says the complaint. A shaheed is a martyr to the Islamic faith.
The complaint said the FBI created a ruse by which Young thought he was helping a man reach ISIS to fight with them. In one communication, the complaint said, Young “proudly referenced the murders of the staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France” and said, among other things, “May Allah make it easy on you…a couple brothers…were named in an assault on a French newspaper…Hopefully now people understand there are some lines you don’t cross.”
The release says that authorities also believe Young was an acquaintance of “Zachary Chesser, who…pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists.” FBI agents interviewed Young when Chesser was arrested in 2010 and “Young said he was shocked by the charges. Young said it would be Young’s religious and personal duty to tell someone if Young became aware of terrorist activity,” the criminal complaint says.
Chesser admitted “posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV series ‘South Park'” for “an episode that depicted the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit,” CNN says. In 2011, Chesser was sentenced to 25 years in prison, CNN says.
NBC News says Young was arrested at transit system headquarters without incident and is due to appear in federal court later in the day of Aug. 3.
Read the indictment here:
According to the complaint, Young told the undercover officer that if anyone betrayed him that “person’s life expectancy would be greatly diminished” and “that person’s head would be in a cinder block at the bottom of Lake Braddock.” He also said, in a discussion on FBI surveillance, that “we” should “pour gasoline on their cars and light them,” the complaint alleges.
The transit system runs buses and Metrorail, according to its website. According to WBT, the transit officer was arrested the morning of Aug. 3. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) was created in 1967 to “plan, develop, build, finance, and operate a balanced regional transportation system in the national capital area,” its website says.
The transit system runs Metrorail, which serves 91 stations and has 117 miles of track, Metrobus, which has 1,500 buses in Washington D.C., and also runs a paratransit service, MetroAccess, says the website.
2. The Officer Is Accused of Trying to Help ISIS Communicate Secretly By Buying Gift Cards & Said He Once Tortured Animals, The Complaint Says
According to ABC News, the officer “allegedly purchased technology-related items” to assist ISIS in dodging police when communicating.
Fox News says Young “is alleged to have tried to send money to the terror group via mobile-based gift cards using a messaging service frequently utilized by ISIS.” In 2015, the complaint said that Young participated in a weapons training event provided by another transit police officer.
The U.S. Attorney’s office release alleges that, on July 28, 2016, Young sent “22 sixteen digit gift card codes to the FBI undercover with a message that stated: ‘Respond to verify receipt . . . may not answer depending on when as this device will be destroyed after all are sent to prevent the data being possibly seen on this end in the case of something unfortunate.'”
The release says the FBI redeemed the codes for $245.
“Since I received my first briefing on this matter, Chief Pavlik and I have worked hand-in-glove with the FBI in the interest of public safety and to ensure that this individual would be brought to justice,” said Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld in a statement the transit system sent to Heavy.
“Metro Transit Police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation up to and including today’s arrest. Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform.”
Young told the undercover officer that he “used to torture animals when he was a child” and despised the FBI and “that someone with Young’s skills could attack an FBI establishment,” the complaint said, adding that Young also allegedly described a way to bring firearms into the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia undetected to distribute to others inside.
Young also referenced the 2015 terrorist attack at a Paris nightclub by saying that the attackers “were misunderstood” and the attack “gave the West a taste of what Muslims face every day,” said the complaint.
3. The Officer Lives in Virginia, Was a Social Studies Teacher’s Son & Worked For the Transit Police For More Than a Decade
The officer worked for the transit police in DC for 12 years and lives in a Virginia suburb, said ABC. The transit system told Heavy: “Young’s employment with the Authority was terminated immediately upon his arrest this morning.”
The New York Times says the transit authority would not say the kind of work Young did or where he was assigned; he had worked there since 2003.
An obituary of Young’s father says he was born in Virginia, died in 2007 and lived in Falls Church, Virginia; a man wrote in the guestbook: “Mr. Young was a great teacher and a great man… he always knew how to keep class exciting.. he would always tell funny jokes.” The man wrote that Young’s father had taught in Fairfax County. Another obituary says Nicholas Young has a sister, and a memorial says the father was a Social Studies and government teacher.
A man who went to high school with Young, but who didn’t want to be named, provided a yearbook photo of Young, and said, “He was quiet kid who kept to himself for the most part. Wasn’t really active in any activities as a kid in school. No sports or clubs or anything. Family was your typical family growing up house in the suburbs…dad was a teacher. His little sister …was very active though, she played soccer, basketball etc…. Never showed any signs of this at least as a kid from what I can remember.” The man lost touch with Young after high school, however. He added, “very odd that he would turn to (allegedly) support ISIS.”
The sister did not respond to a request for comment.
A post from “N. Young” under the obituary refers to the writer as the deceased man’s son and says that he expected his father to live longer.
“To say this event was shocking to many would be an understatement. He always put others needs before his own, whether it be those of family, friends, or coworkers,” the post said. “He also rarely spent money on himself, the only new thing in his house in the past decade was probably a 26″ TV he bought for himself. He lived like a monk. Always followed up to see how people were doing. Spent much of his time and resources caring for the feral cats he rescued and took to the vet and caring for his ailing dog.”
More than 100 Americans have been accused of trying to assist ISIS over the years, ABC News says.
Concerns about homegrown ISIS terrorism have increased since the Orlando, Florida night club mass shooting at Pulse and the San Bernardino terrorist attack, both cases in which the attackers may have been influenced by ISIS but were already living in America. Terrorist attacks in France have also involved people raised in that country, although details on Young’s background were still coming out.
Young suggested that, to join ISIS, a confidential informant sign up with a tour group through a travel agency to avoid detection and described law enforcement techniques, the complaint alleged.
Young made a 5-minute initial appearance in court on Aug. 3 appearing in a T-shirt and “what appeared to be uniform slacks,” said The San Diego Union-Tribune, which said a public defender was appointed to represent him after he asked for one. He said little else, the newspaper said.
4. The Officer Was Apprehended in an FBI Sting & Was Being Monitored For Years, Reports Say
The officer was communicating with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was conducting an undercover sting into him, and thought he was communicating with ISIS, ABC says.
In 2011, the complaint said, Young expressed anger because the FBI had contacted his family and co-workers and spoke about kidnapping and torturing an FBI special agent.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in 2014, “Young met on about 20 separate occasions with an FBI confidential human source (CHS) posing as a U.S. military reservist of Middle Eastern descent who was becoming more religious and eager to leave the U.S. military as a result of having had to fight against Muslims during his deployment to Iraq,” said the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“During these conversations Young advised CHS on how to evade law enforcement detection by utilizing specific travel methods and advised CHS to watch out for informants and not discuss his plans with others,” says the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The investigation began three years ago after the Metro Transit office “went to the FBI with concerns,” Metro Transit Police Chief Pavlik said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. After that point, the FBI, working with Metro police, began monitoring Young “regularly,” The Post said.
The complaint says that Young revealed he was “wary of surveillance” and frequently removed his cell phone battery before talking. He informed an undercover law enforcement officer that he had once aimed an AK-47 out the window of his home while “scanning for what he believed was law enforcement surveillance,” said the complaint.
5. The Officer May Have Fought Against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Reports Say
The Washington Post says that Young was interested in “activity abroad.” The Post says the indictment accuses Young of telling law enforcement that “he had traveled to Libya twice in 2011 to fight against the late Muammar Gaddafi. He gave a person working with law enforcement advice on how to travel to Syria.”
The complaint said that Young claimed he traveled with body armor, a Kevlar helmet and other military-style items to fight with Libyan rebels. He made his way to Libya through Tunisia, the complaint alleged.
Young referenced a Libyan militia group known as “Abo Salem Suhada Brig,” the complaint said. It has possible links to Al-Qaeda, said the complaint.
The U.S. Attorney’s release quotes Young as allegedly saying: “[u]nfortunately I have enough flags on my name that I can’t even buy a plane ticket without little alerts ending up in someone’s hands, so I imagine banking transactions are automatically monitored and will flag depending on what is going on.”