An Ohio man who was radicalized in the US has been nabbed by the FBI after reportedly planning to plant a bomb during Fourth of July celebrations in Cleveland then stand nearby and “watch it go off,” Reuters reported. Demetrius Pitts, a 48-year-old man who expressed allegiance to Al Qaeda, was arrested on Sunday after a meeting with an undercover FBI agent whom Pitts believed to be an Al Qaeda sympathizer.
Pitts, who lives in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, told the agent that he planned to plant the bomb at a July 4 parade, while also targeting other locations in Cleveland and Philadelphia. The holiday fireworks, the man reasoned, would provide good cover for the attack. The undercover agent who nabbed Pitts helped him pick locations that would’ve been near multiple US government buildings.
Pitts told his would-be accomplice that he wanted to be downtown when the bombs exploded so he could watch the chaos unfold.
“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 FBI agent who he believed was affiliated with al Qaeda, the FBI said in court documents.
In a sickening twist to his plot, Pitts raised the idea of giving the children of military personnel remote control cars packed with explosives, turning them into unwitting accomplices.
Pitts was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and is facing up to 20 years in prison. The undercover agent who brought Pitts in gave the man a bus pass and a phone to help him carry out surveillance ahead of the planned attack. Pitts and the FBI agent also discussed him possibly traveling to San Francisco.
“This defendant, by his own words and by his own deeds, wanted to attack our nation and its ideals,” said Justin Herdman, the US attorney for northern Ohio.
Pitts is an American citizen, and his arrest follows the apprehension back in 2015 of 10 people who were plotting a slew of attacks in the name of Islamic State. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Pitts had retained a lawyer, Reuters said.