Man arrested in July 4 attack plot in Cleveland

Sergio Conner
July 3, 2018

Authorities said he also made some "disturbing" Facebook posts with comments urging other Muslims to learn how to shoot guns and throw hand grenades.

Authorities said Pitts' "extremely concerning" statements focused on hatred for the military, wanting to chop off heads and hands and disposing of bodies.

CNBC reports that US law enforcement officials said they had arrested more than 10 people inspired by the Islamic State militant group ahead of the Fourth of July in 2015.

"He talked about taking targets like [Cleveland's] St. John's cathedral off the map - and just Sunday, he discussed giving remote-control cars packed with explosives and shrapnel to the children of our military uniform members", Herdman said. The statutory max sentence for that charge is 20 years in prison.

The FBI declined to say if Pitts had access to or was capable of making an explosive.

This all came to light as he told the undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent of his plot to conduct a July 4 attack on Voinovich Park, where the fireworks are set off every year in downtown Cleveland.

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US Attorney Justin Herman said at the news conference that Mr Pitts has been charged and will be appearing before a US magistrate judge on Monday. He recently performed surveillance in Cleveland at sites that are typically populated on Independence Day, like Voinovich Park and near the U.S. Coast Guard station.

Pitts, agents said, came to their attention previous year through social media posts in which he expressed support for al-Qaeda and made violent threats against the USA armed forces. On the phone were two videos in which he pledged allegiance to al Qaeda.

"The only thing I'm gonna be responsible for is going to look at the spot, to scope out the scenery", he told the undercover agent in one alleged conversation. He discussed potentially detonating a van packed with explosives or sending remote control cars packed with bombs and shrapnel toward the children of US military officers attending the city's Fourth of July parade.

But when it came to participating in an attack, Pitts purportedly told the agent he saw himself as more of a planner than a man who would detonate bombs himself.

Pitts also said, "I don't care and I have no regrets", according to Herdman, Fox reported.

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