Editorials Community News Plano teen arrested in ISIS-inspired plot to commit mass shooting at local mall
Plano teen arrested in ISIS-inspired plot to commit mass shooting at local mall
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A Plano West High School student was arrested on charges related to an ISIS-inspired plan to commit a mass shooting at the Frisco mall with help from others, authorities said Wednesday.
Matin Azizi-Yarand, 17, faces charges of making a terroristic threat and criminal solicitation of capital murder. He was taken into custody at school on Tuesday and is being held on $3 million bail. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Authorities say he had planned the attack for mid-May. He had sent more than $1,400 to others to buy weapons and tactical gear. He had also written a "Message to America" explaining his reasons for the attack.
The teen discussed his plans during online communications with FBI confidential sources, mulling over attacks at a school and a Hindu temple before settling on Stonebriar Centre mall in Frisco, according to the probable cause affidavit. He told the sources that he had learned the layout of the mall and had been observing patrons and security there.
During one conversation, he stated: "I'd actually like to make a cop surrender and drop his gun // then douse him with gasoline and burn him // record it."
The case will be prosecuted by the Collin County District Attorney's Office.
"We are fortunate that the brave men and women of local and federal law enforcement work around the clock to prevent acts of terrorism and mass shootings," Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis said in a news release. "I'd like to thank the FBI's North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Frisco and Plano Police Departments for their efforts in this case and their vigilance in protecting the citizens of Collin County."
The case was investigated by the Plano and Frisco police departments and the FBI.
The attack was planned to happen during Ramadan to limit the number of Muslim casualties, the teen told the source. Ramadan is Islam's holiest month and includes prayers, fasting from dawn to dusk and nightly feasts. This year's observance begins May 15.
"The facts of this case, though alarming, serve as an example of the power of cooperation and the importance of each individual remaining vigilant in the spirit of 'see something-say something,' " Frisco Police Chief John Bruce said in a news release.
The teen stated his plan was to cause financial damage, "setting stores on fire // gasoline // match // we won't suffocate to death lol we can shoot open weapons."
There was also talk of taking hostages. "We can be even more careful if you'd like and take hostages and assess which ones we can kill letting go the elderly and the children," he messaged the source.
Azizi-Yarand began communicating online in December 2017 with an FBI confidential source about his desire to either "make hijrah [travel]" or to do a terrorist attack within the United States, according to a probable cause affidavit.
"Look at all the other lone wolves// What training did they have yet they simply killed the kuffar?" he wrote using a derogatory Arabic term for disbelievers. "The brothers in Europe the brother in Spain the brother in New York? Had no limitary training // it's not about numbers it's about getting a message across to these taghut countries // it's dangerous tho akhi we have to be careful some have gotten arrested // so we good brother?"
After the confidential source replied "OK," Azizi-Yarand stated that he wanted to wait until he was 18 so that he could buy a rifle himself.
"But I swear I want to achieve Allahs [Gods] pleasure and kill the kuffar," he stated, according to the affidavit. "I've only been reading ISIS magazine guides for performing operations and making bombs."
He also told the source that he learned about Islam on the Internet.
During the online conversation, the Plano teen was asked whether he had a target. "Yeah, I've played some scenarious in my head akhi, lol I don't plan to go in blind," he stated.
"Yes, I want to put America in the state that Europe is in which is having to have soldiers deployed in streets" and "something that will cost them a lot financially too."
The teen also sent the source several types of ISIS propaganda. There were links to videos about life in the Islamic state and about being a martyr as well as an image with the ISIS flag and a firearm and the text "Jihad [Struggle/Fight] and the rifle alone. NO negotiations, NO conferences and NO dialogue," according to the affidavit.
Azizi-Yarand also sent a document authored by Eric Harris, one of the teens from the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, that detailed how to build pipe bombs.
Conversations in March turned to gathering money to buy weapons and tactical gear. On April 24, he messaged that he had gotten contacts so that his glasses wouldn't impede their operation.
There was also talk about getting in shape physically for the attack. The teen told his confidential source to "take note of increasing cardio // try going to the gym // increasing stamina // can't shoot out of breath and shaking // because remember we ain't shooting paper targets."