Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, was arrested on charges of attempting to kill a U.S. government official, authorities said. He allegedly planned to detonate pipe bombs at the national landmark and open fire on any employees and officials fleeing after the explosions, according to government documents.
But his parents paint a different picture, saying their son had a normal childhood and that they were shocked by the arrest.
“I know my son probably better than anyone,” Cornell’s father, John Cornell Sr., told ABC News. “He’s a mommy’s boy. His best friend is his cat Mikey. He still calls his mother ‘Mommy.’ Just a typical kid.”
Cornell’s mother, Angela Carmen, said her son is a good person, interested in wrestling but also a homebody.
“I just love my son. I’ll do anything in the world for him, and I’ll be right by his side,” she said.
The FBI first noticed Cornell several months ago, after an informant notified the agency that Cornell was allegedly voicing support for violent “jihad” on Twitter accounts under the alias, “Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah,” according to charging documents. In addition, Cornell allegedly posted statements, videos and other content expressing support for ISIS – the terrorist group also known as ISIL – that is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.
He later met an informant in Cincinnati over two days in October, and then another two days in November. During the last meeting, Cornell told an FBI informant that members of Congress were enemies and he wanted to launch an attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, according to charging documents.
John Cornell Sr. says there’s no way his son could have thought up a terror plot on his own.
“He told me he had went to a mosque and now I know, in hindsight I know, he was meeting with an FBI agent,” he told ABC News. “And they were taking him somewhere, and they were filling his head with a lot of this garbage.”
While also taking “final steps” to travel to Washington for the attack earlier Wednesday, Cornell allegedly bought two semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition from a store in Ohio, authorities said.
John Cornell Sr. said his son only had about $1,200 in his bank account, not enough to fund even a small-scale attack.
“These guns cost almost $2,000. Where did that money come from? Well, it came from the FBI,” John Cornell Sr. said. “They set him up.”
Cornell will have his first appearance in court on Friday, his parents said.