Demetrius Pitts, also known Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, was arrested by the FBI Sunday on the suspicion of planning a terrorist attack for the fourth of July in downtown Cleveland. He faces charges of attempted material support of a foreign terrorist organization.
During a news conference Monday, FBI officials revealed that Pitts was being monitored since 2017 when he made Facebook posts in support of the al-Qaida terrorist group.
Pitts is an American citizen with a criminal history who was radicalized in the U.S. and wanted to join al-Qaida, according to the FBI.
Stephen Anthony, the special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s office in Cleveland, told reporters that Pitts had been doing “reconnaissance" of downtown Cleveland.
U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said Pitts was scoping out ideal targets to park near with a van full of explosives, including a church and a fourth of July parade.
“He talked about taking targets like St. John’s Cathedral off the map,” Herdman said. “He wanted us to be afraid to speak our minds. He also wanted us to be scared to gather in public places.”
Pitts communicated with undercover agents about his plans, sharing his hatred for law enforcement and that he wanted “to chop off hands and heads,” according to Anthony.
Pitts also told undercover agents statements like "what would hit them in their core? Blow up at the Fourth of July parade."
Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson thanked the FBI for their work in thwarting the attack.
“I want to thank the FBI and all the members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force – men and women whose primary goal is to make Northeast Ohio safe,” he said. “These Law Enforcement Partners continue to secure us against those who seek to disrupt our way of life through violence and the threat of terrorist acts.”