SEATTLE — Two ex-convicts planned an attack on a Seattle military recruiting station hoping that it would get attention from the media, authorities say, and even imagined the headlines: "Three Muslim Males Walk Into MEPS Building, Seattle, Washington, And Gun Down Everybody."
Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, of Seattle, was arrested Wednesday when he and another man showed up at a warehouse garage to pick up machine guns they planned to use in the attack, authorities said Thursday. The weapons had been rendered inoperable by federal agents and posed no risk to the public.
Authorities learned of the plot this month when a third person recruited to participate alerted Seattle police, according to court documents. Agents then set up the sting through the confidential informant, who had known Abdul-Latif for years.
Abdul-Latif had little knowledge of weapons, but served briefly in the Navy in the mid-1990s and was familiar with recruiting stations like the one they targeted, a criminal complaint said. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle said he and his alleged accomplice, Walli Mujahidh, planned to attack Joint Base Lewis-McChord but later changed targets.
"If we can get control of the building and we can hold it for a while, then we'll get the local news down there, the media down there, you know what I'm saying," Abdul-Latif was quoted in a court document as saying. "It's a confined space, not a lot of people carrying weapons, and we'd have an advantage."
Mujahidh pictured the headline — "Three Muslim Males Walk Into MEPS Building, Seattle, Washington, And Gun Down Everybody" — according to the court document. Authorities said the two planned to use machine guns and grenades in the attack. In audio and video recordings, they discussed the plot, including strategies to time their attack on military recruits, such as by tossing grenades in the cafeteria, the complaint said.
The attack would not target "anybody innocent — that means old people, women out of uniform, any children," Abdul-Latif allegedly said. "Just people who wear the green for the kaffir army, that's who we're going after."
Abdul-Latif was recorded in conversations with the informant where he spoke admiringly of the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, that claimed 13 lives. He referred to war crimes charges against five soldiers accused of killing Afghan civilians for sport last year, saying "he was not comfortable with letting the legal system deal with these matters," according to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.
Mujahidh confessed after the arrest, saying the attack was aimed at preventing the U.S. military "from going to Islamic lands and killing Muslims," court documents said. He is also known as Frederick Domingue Jr., 32, of Los Angeles.
Court-appointed lawyers for the men declined to comment.
The arrests and news of the plot come after a May 31 assessment from the Homeland Security Department that said coordinated terrorist attacks against military recruiting and National Guard facilities were unlikely. But it warned that lone offenders or groups would try to launch attacks against those facilities.
Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh face federal charges of conspiracy to murder officers and employees of the United States, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and possession of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence. Abdul-Latif was also charged with two counts of illegal possession of firearms.
"The complaint alleges these men intended to carry out a deadly attack against our military where they should be most safe, here at home," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, of Seattle, said in a statement. "This is a sobering reminder of our need to be vigilant."
Abdul-Latif was previously convicted for robbing a Bremerton, Wash., convenience store and for custodial assault, as well as for obstructing a law enforcement officer, assault and theft. When he faced the robbery charge in 2002, he was found to have some "issues" during a psychological evaluation but allowed to stand trial, FBI Special Agent Albert C. Kelly III wrote in the complaint.
A copy of the evaluation showed that Abdul-Latif believed he suffered from depression and abandonment issues, because his father served time in prison in California and he had not seen his mother in a long time. He also said he "huffed" gasoline and smoked marijuana to get high, and that he tried to kill himself in 2001 by deliberately overdosing on seizure medication.
He served prison time on the robbery charge from January 2002 until July 2004. State Corrections Department spokesman Chad Lewis said "nothing in Davis' records that indicates that he converted to Islam while he was in prison."
A sign on the door of Abdul-Latif's apartment read in part: "In the Name of Allah we enter, in the name of Allah we leave, and upon our Lord we depend."
It wasn't immediately clear how the suspects became acquainted, though Mujahidh formerly lived in Seattle. He was convicted in municipal court of violating a domestic violence protection order stemming from a 2007 incident.
Abdul-Latif filed for bankruptcy last month, reporting that his monthly income from his janitorial business was nullified by its operating expenses. Steve Dashiak, his bankruptcy attorney, told The Associated Press he was stunned by the charges.
"I sensed no ill will from him whatsoever," Dashiak said. "He seemed like a guy just trying to make it, having a rough time because business wasn't going very well. To say that I didn't see this coming would be an understatement."
Associated Press counterterrorism reporter Eileen Sullivan contributed from Washington, D.C., writer Mike Baker contributed from Olympia, Wash., and writer Manuel Valdes contributed from Seattle.
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