The FBI announced this morning the arrest of Demetrius Pitts, aka Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, who has been charged with material support of a foreign terrorist organization.
Authorities say in discussions with someone who he believed to be an associate of al Qaeda, but who was really an undercover FBI agent, Pitts talked about conducting a terrorist attack in downtown Cleveland on July 4th. He had canvassed downtown, specifically the U.S. Coast Guard station and Voinovich Park, in recent days. In conversation with the undercover agent, Pitts said he wanted to use a van to set off an explosion.
"I did tell myself that their holiday is coming…what would hit them in the core?" Pitts allegedly told the agent. "Blow up, have a bomb. Blow up at the fourth of July parade."
During a press conference, officials declined to say whether he had possession of explosives, access to explosives, or knowledge of explosives, and couldn't say whether he had any contact or communication with actual members of al Qaeda.
Pitts is a U.S. citizen who authorities say was radicalized in this country. He first appeared on their radar after a tip about his vocal support for al Qaeda and his violent intentions against service members and law enforcement. Pitts' Facebook account, officials said, was littered with such threats and statements. The investigation began in 2017 out of the Cincinnati FBI office, where Pitts was living at the time. After he moved to Maple Heights, the Cleveland office took over the investigation.
The FBI arranged for an undercover agent to be introduced to Pitts to see if there was a credible threat. Last week, during an in-person meeting, Pitts talked about a July 4th attack and then scouted locations. He also expressed a desire to commit a possible future attack in Philadelphia.
Pitts was arrested yesterday Sunday morning. He'll appear in court later this afternoon and faces 20 years in prison.