An Ohio man accused of scouting locations for a potential July 4 terror attack in downtown Cleveland on behalf of Al Qaeda pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges including attempting to provide support to a terrorist group and threatening to kill President Trump and his family.
Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, also known as Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, was busted by undercover FBI agents who met with him in 2018 under the guise of being "brothers" of the terror group who would help him plan the Independence Day attack, Justice Department officials said in a statement.
“I’m trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the 4th of July," Pitts told an undercover officer, according to an affidavit filed in the case. “What would hit them at their core? Have a bomb blow up in the 4th of July parade.”
Prosecutors said Pitts conducted Google searches of maps of downtown Cleveland and plotted to launch an attack near Voinovich Park where a fireworks display would be held to commemorate the holiday. The park is also near a U.S. Coast Guard station and the Celebrezze Federal Building.
Pitts also used surveillance equipment given to him by the undercover agents to take photos and video footage of the downtown area and said he wanted to tour the Coast Guard station to gain as much information as he could about the layout of the facility, adding that he had a desire to "destroy the government," the DOJ said citing to text messages.
Pitts also allegedly told FBI officers, "I’m gonna be somewhere cuz I wanna see it go off,” and was unphased when the fake Al Qaeda "brothers" reminded him that the blast could cause people to die and body parts to explode.
Pitts also said he planned to travel to Philadelphia on a reconnaissance mission and suggested that a truck bomb packed with explosives, such as the one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, would cause maximum damage.
The 50-year-old pledged his allegiance to the terrorist organization in a video found on his cell phone where he said, “We serve Allah... We fight our enemies. We destroy them and destroy those who try to oppose.”
Pitts also pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Trump and his immediate family members.
Pitts is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 11, 2020. Under the terms of his guilty plea, Pitts is likely to be sentenced to 14 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.