Praise for officials who thwarted Fourth of July terror attack on Cleveland

CLEVELAND - Praise poured in from Washington after federal authorities took down a Maple Heights man plotting to attack downtown Cleveland on the 4th of July.

“President Trump commends the work of the DOJ and FBI for helping stop this would be attacker,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

48-year-old Demetrius Pitts made his first appearance in federal court Monday after being arrested Sunday on a charge of trying to support terrorism.

Federal prosecutors say Pitts expressed a desire to join Al Qaeda and kill US citizens, including military personnel and their families.

This all came to light as he told the undercover FBI agent of his plot to conduct a July 4 attack on Voinovich Park.

"He looked for locations to park a van that would be packed with explosives,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.

According to the FBI, Pitts identified St. John Cathedral, the federal building, and The U.S. Coast Guard station as potential targets.

Authorities believe Pitts recently lived in a rehabilitation center in Maple Heights.

However Broadway Care Center could not confirm that, saying in a statement, “Due to privacy laws, Broadway Care Center is not able to release the names of current or former residents at our community. The health and safety of our residents is our number one priority and we are cooperating with all state, federal and local enforcement agencies.”

Pitts is a US citizen and Philadelphia native but at some point, became radicalized.

He’s due back in court on July 5 at 10am for a pre-trial hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland.

Pitts faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison if convicted.