On Sunday, FBI agents arrested Demetrius Pitts who was plotting to help al-Qaida detonate a bomb in downtown Cleveland during the Fourth of July holiday.

U.S. citizen and Philadelphia native — Pitts, 48, a Muslim who the FBI reported had been radicalized in the United States, was charged with attempting to “provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.”


Pitts allegedly planned on packing a van with explosives and detonating the explosives near July 4 crowds, the affidavit states. He also sought to put explosives in toy-size, remote-controlled cars and rolling them under law enforcement vehicles or giving the cars to children of military personnel.

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“I’m gonna be downtown when the – when the thing go off. I’m gonna be somewhere cuz I wanna see it go off,” Pitts told an undercover agent who he believed was affiliated with al Qaeda, according to court documents.

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The investigation of Pitts has similarities to the FBI’s 2012 investigation that foiled a bridge-bombing plot. In both cases, the FBI used undercover investigators posing as would-be accomplices and promising to provide the explosives, according to Cleveland.com

The FBI learned about Pitts’ disdain for America on Dec. 31, 2015, after discovering suspicious Facebook activity under the name Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, later determined to be Pitts, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

“This defendant, by his own words and by his own deeds, wanted to attack our nation and its ideals,” said Justin Herdman, the U.S. attorney for northern Ohio in a news conference on Monday.


“He wanted us to be afraid to speak our minds. He also wanted us to be afraid to gather together in public places,” he said. “So I ask this week that we all continue to gather, continue to celebrate America.”

Pitts has an extensive criminal record. He spent more than ten years in prison for robbing a woman, robbing Bangs Market, a grocery story, and he has been charged with domestic violence.

Cleveland Police Calvin Williams said the city already planned stepped-up security on the Fourth as a matter of course, and that additional officers won’t necessarily be deployed.

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