A man who allegedly plotted to carry out an attack “in the style of Dylann Roof” has been arrested - but not charged under any terrorism laws.
Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, was detained by the FBI in South Carolina on Wednesday for illegally buying a gun with the intention of carrying out a mass shooting “against non-whites”. He was charged with possession of a fire arm.
According to an affidavit from the FBI that was filed in federal court, Mr McDowell had told an undercover FBI agent he was interested in “doing something on a f***ing big scale” and writing “in the spirit of Dylann Roof” on the wall of the building where he would commit the killings. Roof was sentenced to death in January for killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston.
The document, which is in the public domain, states that Mr McDowell had “established White Supremacy Extremist connections while serving prison sentences in South Carolina for various criminal offenses,” adding that his “tattoos on his extremities indicated his affiliation with the WSE (white supremacist extremists)”.
In the months leading up to his arrest, Mr McDowell had reportedly posted a number of anti-Semitic messages on Facebook, including on the page of Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach, accusing Jews of plotting to wipe out the white race.
According to the FBI affidavit, on 5 January Mr McDowell wrote on Facebook: “All they wanna do is stay loaded on drugs the Jews put here to destroy white man and they fest on the drugs”, and went on to chastise other white supremacists for not having “the heart to fight for Yahweh like Dylann Roof”. A day later he reportedly posted that he was looking to buy a gun.
The FBI had been monitoring Mr McDowell’s activity, and he was subsequently intercepted by an undercover agent posing as someone who “handled problems for the Aryan Nations” under the pretence that he was selling him a firearm. Mr McDowell then expressed his desire to carry out the “mass shooting”.
Appearing before a federal magistrate court on Thursday, Mr McDowell was charged for a violation of “possessing of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person”.
A statement from the District of South Carolina attorney’s office read: “McDowell was arrested for a violation of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g)(1).”
Mr McDowell remains in custody, with a detention hearing scheduled for 21 February.
It comes shortly after Mr Trump said in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu that he would “stand with Israel in the struggle against terrorism”, saying the US had “a long history of cooperation in the fight against terrorism”.
During his inauguration speech in January, Mr Trump focused attention on taking a hard-line stance against “radical Islamic terrorism”, saying the US would unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”
The President has recently caused anger after failing to make a public statement following the shooting of six Muslims by a white supremacist at a mosque in Quebec.