FLORIDA – Police arrested Monday a man in Jacksonville, Florida who was allegedly planning a mass shooting at a mosque.
“This investigation is ongoing and there may be more charges.”
Bernandino Gawala Bolatete came under investigation by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville FBI after a source tipped them off in October.
The source told police Bolatete had expressed Islamophobic views, Sheriff Mike Williams said in a press conference on Monday.
According to the informant, Bolatete reportedly said that he wanted to carry out a mass shooting at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.
An undercover detective met with Bolatete and was able to confirm what the source had said.
“So we’ll try… we will try a Christian doing [a] terroristic act this time to the Muslims,” he told the officer, according to the complaint. “They doing [sic] it all the time.”
He told the officer he was willing to die during the attack, calling it “suicide by cops.”
Bolatete told the undercover officer that he already had a silencer that wasn’t very “quiet,” asking him to help him buy a new silencer for his rifle because he “might need it,” but did not want to leave a paper trail.
“Altho [sic] the suppressor is not really that ‘quiet,’ but it can be used on the 4th of July or New Year time, it can easily blend with the sound of fireworks,” he texted the officer. “I think that’s the right time you can hit that asshole that you have there.”
On Facebook, Bolatete called himself a “shooting sport enthusiast” and posted photos of himself holding semi-automatic weapons.
The news of the arrest sparked fear in the Muslim community in northeastern Florida, ABC Action News reported.
Hassan Shibly the Executive Director of CAIR Florida tells ABC Action News both his mom and sister attend the mosque that investigators say was targeted.
“It was very, very scary that a man was planning on carrying out a massacre there, intentionally planning on killing women and children and unarmed individuals simply because he hates them,” Shibly said.
“It was a close call. I’m very, very grateful.”
Shibly said CAIR has organized more than 40 safety and security active shooter training seminars over the last year due to the increase of hate attacks targeting the Muslim community in Florida.
“Unfortunately, we’ve documented a 500 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crime and hate instants in the state of Florida since Trump started targeting the community,” Shibly said.
Remarking on President Donald Trump’s typically immediate responses to terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims, Shibly said, “I didn’t hear the president condemning this terrorist plot that was planned against our mosque today.”