Recruiter Shooting Suspect Had Ties to Extremist Locations

Jewish institutions, day-care center, post office were among them, DHS says.

June 1, 2009, 8:28 PM

June 3, 2009— -- The Arkansas man accused of killing an Army recruiter and wounding another had used the popular Google Maps application to investigate recruiting centers in at least five states, as well as Jewish institutions, a day-care center, a post office and a Baptist Church, according to a report issued Tuesday evening by the Department of Homeland Security, ABC News has learned.

Recruiting centers in New York, Atlanta, Louisville and Philadelphia were on a list of possible targets, based on evidence found in the home of the suspect, Muslim-convert Abdulhakim Muhammed, according to the report.

The report was prepared based on the evidence seized in a search of Muhammed's home that included information indicating that he had used Google maps to investigate various locations.

Secure Community Network, a not-for-profit group that addresses security concerns among some of the national Jewish leadership, and is widely considered to be a reliable source on potential threats to that community, expanded on the government report to conclude that, "Muhammad may have considered and conducted research on other targets in addition to the military recruiting center in Little Rock, including military sites, government facilities, as well as Jewish institutions in several cities throughout the United States.

"Law enforcement officials have reported that Muhammad may have researched Jewish entities in Little Rock, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Louisville and Memphis. It is unknown at this time if other locations were considered," according to SCN, which is a Jewish Federations of North America initiative.

ABC News reported Monday that the suspect arrested in the fatal shooting of one soldier and the critical injury of another at a Little Rock Army recruiting booth was under investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force since his return from Yemen.

ABC further reported that the suspect's travel within the United States had also come under scrutiny by the Terrorist Task Force, including travel to Columbus, Ohio – an area of domestic concern for authorities who have observed a number of Somali Americans traveling from there to Somali to wage jihad.

A recent convert to Islam, Muhammad, 24, upon his arrest Monday shortly after the fatal shooting, allegedly confessed and told authorities he acted alone, according to court documents. But prior to the shooting, Muhammad had been the subject of a preliminary investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force since his return from Yemen, where he was arrested and had in his possession a false Somali passport, ABC News has learned.

And now, officials say, the FBI and the CIA are engaged in an intense effort to reconstruct Muhammad's path to extremism -- and allegedly to murder -- taking apart his life, examining his friendships, educational records, travel within the United States and possible contacts with extremists overseas.

Though police told ABC News that a preliminary investigation indicated that Muhammad acted alone, federal authorities are trying to determine whether others were involved in any way -- including supplying weapons, lending encouragement or support, and helping to identify a target -- in the Monday shooting that also critically wounded another soldier. Although he allegedly confessed, Muhammad also has pleaded not guilty to the shooting.

"We believe that it's associated with his disagreement over the military operations," Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas told The Associated Press. "At this point it appears that he specifically targeted military personnel, but there doesn't appear to be a wider conspiracy or, at this point in time, any indication that he's a part of a larger group or a conspiracy to go further."

Small Arsenal Found in Suspect's Car

According to a police report, Muhammad told police that he saw two uniformed U.S. soldiers in front of the recruiting office before he shot and killed Pvt. William Long, 23, and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, while they were taking a break outside the U.S. Army recruiting station where they both worked.

Witness Lance Luplow said he came running when he heard six or seven "loud bangs."

"I come running across the street and there is a white male and a black male and they both are in Army fatigues and they're both shot real bad," Luplow said. "One of them couldn't even talk, the other one crawled inside and said, 'I can't believe this is happening.' The other guy, I mean he was so out of it -- he was just a blank stare. Just looking up at the sky."

Muhammad was arrested shortly after the shooting and he offered no resistance to authorities who stopped his vehicle, police said.

According to sources, shortly after his arrest the suspect advised police that he was going to kill as many Army personnel as possible. At the time of the shooting, the subject had 562 rounds of ammunition available, police said.

According to court records, during his interview with police, Muhammad stated "that he recently viewed a video pertaining to subversive activities which spurred him to commit this act."

When Muhammad was arrested, he was near a Walgreens drug store and another large store with hundreds of people inside as well as outside in the parking lot areas.

But authorities said he never attempted to hurt anyone at either location and directed his hostility only to the recruiting site.

When police stopped Muhammad's vehicle, the suspect allegedly advised officers that he had a bomb in the car. Bomb techs were dispatched, but no explosive devices were found.

The car, however, was loaded with a small arsenal, according to Little Rock Police documents. Officers who searched it found the ammunition, an SKS assault rifle, a Mossberg International 702 rifle with scope and laser sight, two pistols and two military books. They also found homemade gun silencers, binoculars, a lab coat and a receipt for a firearm, according to court documents.

The ammo was loaded in magazines which were found in a vest, police sources said.

Twin City Tours, a Little Rock travel company, was listed as Muhammad's employer on an arrest report.

Muhammad's father, Melvin Bledsoe, would not comment when reached by ABC News. He would only refer all questions to the Little Rock Police Department.

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