U.S. News

Man pleads not guilty for planned mass shooting in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Milwaukee man who authorities say planned to kill dozens of people in a mass shooting at a local Masonic temple pleaded not guilty to weapons charges in federal court on Tuesday.

Samy Mohamed Hamzeh appears in a police booking photo obtained from the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department in Waukesha, Wisconsin February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Waukesha County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters

Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, 23, appeared in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he is charged with possession of two machineguns and a silencer, according to online court records. He was arrested last month.

Hamzeh made his not guilty plea in front of U.S. Judge David Jones. Hamzeh responded “yes sir” several times to the judge’s instructions. After the brief hearing, Hamzeh was swiftly lead out of the courtroom, passing his father and crying mother who extended her hand to her son.

No trial date was set as his attorney Craig Albee and U.S. Attorney Paul Kanter told the court that they need time to review hundreds of hours of secretly recorded conversations Hamzeh allegedly had in Arabic with two people who turned out to be FBI confidential sources.

Kanter would not comment on whether he is considering additional charges against Hamzeh, who is being held without bond. Albee declined to comment.

According to the complaint, Hamzeh, a U.S. citizen, told the FBI sources that he was planning to use the weapons in an attack on a Milwaukee temple that would be “known the world over” in order to “ignite broader clashes.”

Hamzeh was under investigation since September, when he was considering an attack on Israelis in the West Bank. He abandoned that plan and began plotting an attack in the United States, according to a criminal complaint against him.

On Jan. 19, Hamzeh and the FBI sources practiced firing a handgun at a range and then took a guided tour of the Masonic temple in order to plot the attack, the criminal complaint said.

“I am telling you, if this hit is executed, it will be known all over the world,” Hamzeh told the sources, according to the Justice Department. “Sure, all over the world, all the mujahedeen will be talking and they will be proud of us.”

He was arrested on Jan. 25 after he bought two machineguns and a silencer from undercover FBI agents to be used in the attack, authorities said.

A Masonic temple is a meeting place for Masons, members of a fraternal organization.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Dan Grebler, Bernard Orr