30-page complaint details conversations of Cleveland terror suspect leading up to thwarted attack

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A man who repeatedly said he wanted to be part of a foreign terrorist organization conducted reconnaissance in downtown Cleveland in recent days, planning to pack a van with explosives in a July 4 attack.

Demetrius Nathanial Pitts, also known as Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, was arrested yesterday after a months-long investigation prompted by statements made on social media.

**To read the entire 30-page complaint against Pitts, click here**

Demetrius N. Pitts

He faces a charge of attempted material support of a foreign terrorist organization and will appear in court Monday.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said the FBI originally in 2017 learned of statements Pitts made supporting Al Qaeda and regarding violent intentions against the armed forces while he lived in the Cincinnati area.

Pitts moved to Cleveland in May, and authorities continued investigating his claims.

Anthony said just last week, Pitts met with an undercover agent and made statements similar to "what would hit them in their core? Blow up at the Fourth of July parade."

Anthony said Pitts then surveilled landmarks including the U.S. Coast Guard station and Voinovich Park downtown.

He continued to voice his hatred for the military, wanting to "chop off heads and hands." At a final meeting Sunday, Pitts is accused of having another conversation with an undercover agent in which he indicated his desire to participate in a terrorist attack on July 4 in Cleveland, Ohio.

He also wanted to conduct an attack in the future in Philadelphia, said Anthony.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said during his conversations with undercover agents, Pitts said he planned to use a van packed with explosives, wanting to target people watching fireworks and the downtown parade.

Pitts was arrested Sunday.

Authorities say he is a United States citizen. It's not clear if he had access to explosives or if he has a history of using them. He does have an extensive criminal history.

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson made the following statement regarding the efforts to prevent a July 4 attack:

“I want to thank the FBI and all the members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force – men and women whose primary goal is to make Northeast Ohio safe,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “These Law Enforcement Partners continue to secure us against those who seek to disrupt our way of life through violence and the threat of terrorist acts.”

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:17 am

Stephen Anthony, FBI Special Agent
in Charge, Justin Herdman, United States Attorney – NDOH, Chief Calvin
Williams, Cleveland Division of Police, and other executives from the FBI’s
Joint Terrorism Task Force will be present at today’s press conference.  

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:23 am

Stephen Anthony, FBI Special Agent in Charge for CLE FBI: Demetrius Pitts, aka Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, was arrested yesterday by the joint terrorism task force. 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:23 am

The FBI in 2017 learned he made statements supporting Al Qaeda and of violent intentions when he lived in the Cincinnati area. 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:25 am

Anthony: The suspect eventually moved to Cleveland. And just last week with a meeting with an undercover agent, Pitts asked: “What would hit them in their core? Blow up at the Fourth of July parade.” 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:25 am

He’s then accused of surveilling landmarks including Voinovich Park.

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:26 am

A final meeting happened yesterday morning where the undercover agent and Pitts had a lengthy conversation — Pitts indicated his desire to participate in a terrorist attack on July, and his desire to kill military members and others. 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:29 am

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman: Pitts has been charged in federal court and will appear in court today.

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:29 am

He could face 20 years in prison. 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:30 am

Herdman: Last week, the suspect was walking around downtown Cleveland conducting reconnaissance on what he thought was a large-scale attack. He planned to use a van packed with explosives and taking places like St. John’s Cathedral “off the map.”

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:30 am

The suspect said he didn’t care about injuries and “had no regrets.” 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:31 am

Herdman: He wanted to target people watching fireworks and watching the Fourth of July parade downtown. 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:34 am

Cleveland Chief Calvin Williams still urges the public: “if you see something, say something.” 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:36 am

Anthony: Throughout the investigation, he repeatedly said he wanted to be a part of a foreign terrorist organization, specifically Al Qaeda. 

Darcie Loreno July 2, 20189:37 am

Pitts is a United States citizen.