Teen 'In Love With ISIS Fighter' Met With Authorities 8 Times Before Being Arrested

A timeline of Shannon Conley's actions leading to her arrest.

ByABC News
July 3, 2014, 4:22 PM

— -- A 19-year-old American who was charged with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists when she allegedly tried to board a plane to meet a jihadist she claimed to have fallen in love with over the Internet had been warned by federal authorities about the danger of her activities for months.

Shannon Maureen Conley attempted to get on a plane in Denver on April 8 in an effort to fly to Turkey, by way of Germany, in order to get to Syria, authorities said.

Conley had eight interviews with police and FBI agents over the course of the six months leading up to that moment -- and the meetings reveal that she repeatedly spoke about her support of Jihad and how she wanted to associate with terrorists in the hope of helping them, the charging document claimed.

After Conley was arrested, the FBI was able to obtain warrants to search her parents' home in Arvada, Colorado, where she had been living and found DVDs and CDs that were labelled Anwar al-Awlaki, the name of the radical Islamic cleric known for his extreme rants and support of Jihad. Her parents also previously told FBI agents that there were firearms in their home and their daughter knew how to use them.

Suspicious Activity

A neighbor who lives on the same street as the Conleys told ABC News that Shannon "was creepy" and some of her behavior concerned the neighbor, who did not want to be identified out of fear, to the extent that the neighbor wrote an email to Homeland Security more than a year ago.

The neighbor says that Shannon would walk around and "stare at the electrical boxes." The neighbor also said the teen would also walk to a nearby playground and swing all by herself.

The charging documents against the teen state that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation first became aware of her suspicious activity this past November. She had been attending Sunday programs at the Faith Bible Chapel for over a month, but on November 5, administrators became concerned about her behavior and alerted the police.

They saw Conley, a certified nurse's aide, "wandering around and taking notes in a notebook that appeared to FBC staff to be consistent with taking notes of various locations and the layout of the campus," according to the FBI criminal complaint.

Two days after administrators first raised their concerns about Conley, police interviewed her about the suspicious behavior. Conley told the police she "wanted to meet people of other faiths and learn about them" and that is why she attended Faith Bible Chapel.

"I hate those people," she said to the interviewers when asked about the members of the Faith Bible Church.

"Conley stated that [she] does not like Israel or FBC’s active and vocal support for Israel," the criminal complaint explained.

"After a while, Conley noticed she was being followed and felt they treated her like a terrorist. Conley stated that she reasoned that, 'If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am.' She started keeping a notebook and acted like she was diagramming the church to alarm them." She went on to talk about jihad and how she believes that "it is okay to harm innocents if they are part of a target" during an attack, and "repeatedly referred to US military bases as 'targets'".

PHOTO: FBI agents found that Shannon Conley had CDs and DVDs labeled with the name of radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki, pictured in this 2008 file photo, who was killed in 2011.
FBI agents found that Shannon Conley had CDs and DVDs labeled with the name of radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki, pictured in this 2008 file photo, who was killed in 2011.

'Wage Jihad'

The federal account of her meetings with authorities, as reported in the charging document, shows how her rhetoric grew increasingly aggressive in her next recorded interview with authorities, which took place December 6, by which point she openly admitted that she had joined the US Army Explorers program in order to gain insight into how the military works.

"She said she intended to use that training to go overseas to wage Jihad. She also intended to train Islamic Jihadi fighters in US military tactics," the criminal complaint states. "She further stated that if she is not allowed to fight because she is a woman, she will use her medical training to aid Jihadi fighters."

Just over two weeks later, an FBI agent met with Conley again, wherein the agent warned her that the jihad attacks that she was speaking about were illegal but that did not change her mind.

"When asked if she still wanted to carry out the plans, knowing they are illegal, Conley said that she does," according to the criminal complaint.