U.S. News

Ohio man arrested for plotting synagogue attack: law enforcement

(Reuters) - An Ohio man who said he admired the gunman who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October has been arrested and charged with planning an attack on another Jewish house of worship, federal authorities said on Monday.

The suspect, Damon Joseph, 21, of Holland, Ohio, also was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to Islamic State after voicing support for the militant group.

Joseph told the undercover officer that he admired the gunman who shouted “All Jews must die” while attacking the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27.

Jeff Fortunato, the FBI’s acting special agent in charge in Cleveland, said in a statement that Joseph “progressed from radicalized, virtual jihadist to attack planner.”

Federal officials said Joseph told an undercover officer, “I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually ... I can see myself carrying out this type of operation” and discussed trying to pick between two Toledo-area synagogues to target.

Joseph discussed the types of weapons he believed would inflict mass casualties, said he wanted to kill a rabbi and looked at photographs of the inside of a synagogue, officials said. He was arrested after accepting a black bag containing two AR-15 rifles the investigator told him had been purchased for the attack.

Joseph’s attorney, Neil McElroy, declined to comment.

Joseph caught the attention of law enforcement earlier this year by posting photographs of knives and firearms on social media and a photograph originally distributed by the media wing of Islamic State. The activity led to multiple interactions between Joseph and undercover FBI agents.

Hate crimes in the United States jumped 17 percent in 2017, with a 37 percent spike in anti-Semitic attacks, the third straight year that such attacks have increased, FBI data released last month said.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott