A federal grand jury sitting in the Northern District of Ohio returned a three-count indictment charging an Ohio man with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, attempting to commit a hate crime, and possessing firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence stemming from his plan to attack in a synagogue in the Toledo area.
Damon M. Joseph, 21, also known as Abdullah Ali Yusuf, of Holland, Ohio, was arrested in December after he took possession of two semi-automatic rifles.
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division, U.S Attorney Justin E. Herdman for the Northern District of Ohio and Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Hughes of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.
According to documents filed in court, Joseph drew the attention of law enforcement in 2018 by posting photographs of weapons and various messages in support of ISIS on his social media accounts, as well as a photograph originally distributed by the media wing of ISIS. This activity led to multiple interactions between Joseph and undercover FBI agents.
During his communication with undercover agents, Joseph stated his support for ISIS and produced propaganda in support of ISIS recruitment. In September, Joseph made videos that he sent to the undercover agent, hoping they would be used to recruit people to ISIS. He also complained that the mosque he attended was critical of ISIS.
Joseph stated his support for violent attacks and operations. For example, on Oct. 21, 2018, Joseph expressed support for “martyrdom operations” and stated: “what must be done, must be done” and “there are always casualties of war.”
On Oct. 30, Joseph and the undercover communicated regarding the mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. Joseph stated: “I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually.” He added: “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah. They wouldn[’]t even expect [an attack] in my area…”
Over the next few weeks, Joseph continued stating he wanted to participate in an attack on behalf of ISIS. On Dec. 2 he forwarded a document that laid out his plans for an attack, using the name “Abdullah Ali Yusuf” for himself. In the document, he described plans to attack where the greatest number of people are gathered, inflict the most casualties during the attack and make sure no one escaped.
Joseph then stated that he did not see this necessarily as “a martyrdom operation” as his plan accounted for an escape and potential combat with law enforcement.
On Dec. 4, Joseph stated he was deciding between two synagogues in the area to attack. He stated the choice would depend on “Which one will have [the] most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home.”
The next day, Joseph met with an undercover FBI agent and discussed conducting a mass shooting at a synagogue. Joseph identified two synagogues he viewed as targets in the greater Toledo area, and discussed the types of weapons he believed would be able to inflict mass casualties.
Joseph made written notes about the firearms he wanted and provided them to the undercover agent, stating he wanted AR 15s, AK 47s, Glocks and ammunition.
On Dec. 6, Joseph met with an undercover agent in the Toledo area and stated it would be ideal to attack two synagogues, but that it was probably more realistic to only attack one. Joseph also stated specifically that he wanted to kill a rabbi.
Also on Dec. 6, Joseph wrote the name and address of the synagogue where the attack was to occur. Joseph stated he had conducted research to determine when the Jewish sabbath was so that more people would be present. Joseph pulled up photographs of the inside of the synagogue and said he wanted the attack to begin in the sanctuary. Joseph told the undercover agent that he would hide two semi-automatic rifles at his house once the undercover purchased them.
Later that day, the undercover agent told Joseph that he purchased rifles for the attack. The two met on Dec. 7 at a predetermined location and Joseph took a black duffel bag containing two semi-automatic rifles, which had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement officers so that they posed no danger to the public. Joseph was then arrested.
An indictment is only a charge, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of members of the FBI, Homeland Security and Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Toledo Police Department, is leading the ongoing investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Baeppler of the Northern District of Ohio, Trial Attorneys Josh Champagne and Kyle Phillips of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division.