The FBI in Cleveland has arrested a 48-year-old man it says was planning a July 4 attack in the city’s downtown, authorities said.
The man — Demetrius N. Pitts, who also used the names Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq and Salahadeen Osama Waleed — was taken into custody Sunday and charged with attempted material support of a foreign terrorist organization.
According to an FBI affidavit, Pitts had extensive discussions with someone he believed to be working for the al-Qaida terrorist network about attacking the city — possibly with a remote control car equipped with a bomb or a van laced with explosives — and considered himself more of a planner or scout than an on-the-ground attacker. The man with whom Pitts was speaking was working undercover for the FBI, and their interactions were recorded.
“I’m trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the 4th of July,” Pitts told the undercover FBI employee last month, according to the affidavit.
“What would what would hit them in the core?” he said, according to the affidavit. “Have a bomb to blow up at the 4th of July parade.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony conceded it was unclear whether Pitts had the means to carry out an attack by himself. “His precise ability to do specific things, again, we may never know,” he said. But he said Pitts’ extensive conversations with the undercover FBI employee, combined with a criminal record that included charges for assault, domestic violence and carrying a concealed weapon, gave agents cause for concern.
The FBI had been tipped to Pitts as far back as 2015, when he sent a message to “The Craig Sewing Show,” a political commentary show, saying, “The USA will be destroy. Allahu Akbar.” In 2017, he made Facebook comments suggesting violence, and an FBI investigation that continued into 2018 determined he was “willing to conduct a U.S. based attack,” the affidavit said.