Federal authorities have arrested a man who from Cincinnati who was allegedly planning a terrorist-style attack in downtown Cleveland on the upcoming July 4 holiday.
Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, 48, was arrested in the Cleveland area Sunday morning, according to Steve Anthony, Cleveland FBI special agent in charge.
The FBI said Pitts, otherwise known as Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, was taken into custody Sunday around 10 a.m. on accusations of attempting to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization, according to WKYC3.
Pitts Planned to Target Cleveland Terrorist Attacks on Independence Day, to “Hit Them in the Core” With a Bomb
According to WKYC, Pitts allegedly told an undercover agent: “I did tell myself that their holiday is coming up. The Fourth of July. Independence Day. What would hit them in the core? Blow up. Have a bomb. Blow up at the Fourth of July parade.”
Authorities state that Pitts talked about targeting St. John’s Cathedral, and gifting cars packed with explosives and shrapnel to the children of military members, according to WKYC.
“Just last week, this defendant was walking around downtown Cleveland conducting reconnaissance on what he thought was a large-scale attack planned for the Fourth of July,” United States Attorney Justin Herdman said. “He looked for locations to park a van that would be packed with explosives.”
Pitts allegedly looked to target Voinovich Park and the U.S. Coast Guard Station.
Pitts is Accused of Making “Disturbing” Facebook Posts, Expressing Desire to Kill Military Personnel & Urging Muslims to Take up Arms
The FBI in Cincinnati began investigating Pitts in 2017 after he was found making violent statements while living in southern Ohio. In May, the local FBI office picked up the investigations after Pitts moved to the Cleveland area.
“On Sunday during his final meeting with an undercover agent, authorities say Pitts expressed allegiance to Al-Qaeda and discussed his desire to kill military personnel and their families. He also allegedly wanted to conduct a future attack in Philadelphia, a place he previously lived,” according to WKYC.
Authorities stated that Pitts made some “disturbing” Facebook posts, with comments urging other Muslims to learn how to shoot guns and throw hand grenades, WKYC reports. An undercover agent met with Pitts to see if he was a threat to national security.
“Additional conversations with extremely concerning statements of intentions made by Pitts are specified in the federal complaint,” said Stephen Anthony, FBI Special Agent in Charge. “They include topics such as hatred for the military, wanting to chop off heads and hands and disposing of bodies.”
Other disturbing statements included Pitts’ hatred for the military, wanting to chop off heads and hands and disposing of the bodies, Anthony also said.
Pitts, who has an extensive criminal history, is a United States citizen. You can view the full copy of Pitts’ affidavit below:
He is charged in U.S. District Court with one count of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida, a designated foreign terrorist organization, WCPO reports. He’ll appear before a U.S. magistrate this coming Monday.
This is a developing story. Heavy will update as more information is known.