FBI: Ohio man planned Tree of Life copycat attack
A man planning to attack an Ohio synagogue told an undercover federal agent he was inspired by the October massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, federal officials said Monday.
Damon Joseph, 21, of Holland, Ohio, had identified two Toledo-area synagogues as potential targets for the attacks that he planned to carry out in the name of ISIS, according to a Department of Justice release.
Federal officials said Joseph expressed admiration for the Oct. 27 massacre in Pittsburgh that left 11 congregants dead.
“I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually,” he allegedly told an undercover agent Oct. 30, according to the release. “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah (if Allah wills it). They wouldn’t even expect (an attack) in my area.”
Robert Bowers, who is charged in the Pittsburgh shooting, allegedly carried out his attack because of his anti-Semitic beliefs and the fact that one congregation housed in Tree of Life supported refugees.
After the shooting, Joseph allegedly called Jewish people evil and said “they got what was coming to them,” according to Fox28 in Columbus. He expressed his wish to “kill a rabbi” and to attack responding officers.
On Dec. 2, Joseph forwarded his plans for the attack to the undercover agent, according to the DOJ. Two days later, he said he was decided between two synagogues, and it would depend on, “Which one will have the most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home,” he said, according to the release.
When he met with the undercover agent Dec. 6, he said he wanted “AR-15s, (an) AK-47, Glocks and ammunition,” according to the release. He said he wanted to attack two synagogues but admitted one was more realistic.
The same day, according to the DOJ release, Joseph said he’d researched when the Jewish Sabbath was so more people would be present. He had photos of inside one of the synagogues, and he said he wanted his attack to begin in the sanctuary.
“He selected firearms – firearms that he handpicked because he believed they would deliver the maximum amount of damage and destruction,” said Justin Herman, U.S Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, according to Fox28.
Unable to purchase the firearms himself because of a prior conviction, Joseph recruited the undercover officer to buy the weapons for him, according to the DOJ. He met with the undercover officer Friday and took possession of a black duffel bag carrying two AR-15 type weapons. Officers arrested him after the transaction.
Joseph is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, email@example.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.