Federal and Local Law Enforcement Working Together as Cleveland Terrorist Suspect Identified Philadelphia as Next “Big Target”
PHILADELPHIA, PA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that his Office is working together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Philadelphia Field Office and the Philadelphia Police Department in connection with a criminal complaint filed today in Cleveland, Ohio, against Demetrius N. Pitts, aka Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, aka Salahadeen Osama Waleed, 48, of Maple Heights, Ohio. Pitts was arrested Sunday by members of FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The complaint and supporting affidavit filed today in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio allege that Pitts spoke to an undercover FBI agent about planning an attack in downtown Cleveland on July 4 on behalf of al Qaeda. The supporting affidavit, also part of the public record, further alleged that Pitts told the same undercover FBI agent—in text message exchanges and during secretly recorded meetings—that he intended to travel to Philadelphia to conduct reconnaissance in furtherance of the next al Qaeda terrorist attack.
According to the supporting affidavit, Pitts told the undercover FBI agent that he knows Philadelphia best because it is his hometown; that Philadelphia would be the “big target”; and that the attack “will be done” on Labor Day. In a meeting on July 1, 2018, Pitts allegedly showed the FBI agent a map of Philadelphia; pointed out multiple landmarks as worthy targets, including the Federal Building and City Hall; and stated a truck bomb like the one used in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, would be the best way to cause maximum damage. When the undercover FBI agent commented to Pitts that people would die and body parts would be flying around, Pitts signaled no remorse, stating “I don’t care,” and “would be able to go to sleep.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia has been coordinating with both the FBI, Philadelphia Field Office and the Philadelphia Police Department to share all available information and assess any imminent threats. All law enforcement partners remain in constant communication about the case and will work together to determine what next steps will be taken in connection with the information gathered.
“Protecting this country from terror attacks is the first priority of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “This case is another stellar example of different agencies and prosecutors working together to keep our citizens safe. Our Office has been in constant communication with authorities in Cleveland, as well as the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department. I want to particularly commend the FBI for its fast-paced and thorough investigation of this matter. The public can rest assured that authorities across this great country work every day, around the clock, to protect America and her residents from terrorism.”
“All across the country, each and every day, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces are working fervently to detect and deter disturbing plots like this. Our Cleveland JTTF is to be highly commended for this important investigation and arrest,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The details of Pitts’ alleged plan of attack here are chilling. He saw this city, his hometown, as an attractive symbol—and the perfect target—because of Philadelphia’s central role in this nation’s founding. Philadelphia stands for freedom, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; ideals that are anathema to extremists like al Qaeda, and, it appears, Demetrius Pitts.”
An Indictment, Information, or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.