AMERSFOORT, The Netherlands -- Jason Walters was the consummate outsider, his neighbors recalled, the loner who never quite fit in, the one the other kids liked to bully at school. He was the son of a black American father and a Dutch woman, and had few friends. He was pro-American, they said, perhaps because of his father.
Suddenly last month, Walters, 19, was arrested after a violent hours-long standoff with police, in one of a series of raids on suspected Muslim terrorist cells following the Nov. 2 assassination of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an alleged Muslim extremist.
Police led Jason Walters from an apartment building in The Hague after a violent, hours-long standoff. Walters resisted arrest by throwing a hand grenade into the street, wounding three officers.
(Rien Zilvold -- AP)
According to police, Walters had his own plans to assassinate Dutch political figures he deemed anti-Muslim, and his hit list included two members of parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia, and Geert Wilders. Both, like van Gogh, had been outspoken critics of Islam in the Netherlands, particularly its treatment of women.
Police said Walters was a member of the Hofstad Network, a loosely knit local Muslim group influenced by al Qaeda whose members included Mohammed Bouyeri, a young Moroccan immigrant who was arrested in the van Gogh slaying.
When police tried to arrest Walters on Nov. 10 at an apartment in The Hague, the Dutch capital, he threw a hand grenade into the street, wounding three officers. And when police finally brought Walters, shirtless and blindfolded, from the apartment -- along with another suspect, Ismail Akhnikh -- residents of his old neighborhood back in Amersfoort said they were shocked that the quiet teenager they used to see on the streets had drifted down the path to anti-Western militancy.
About three years ago, Walters, then 16, visited a mosque and converted to Islam, people who know him said. Walters, who began calling himself Jamal, grew increasingly radical in his beliefs, railing so insistently against "nonbelievers" and talking so much about waging jihad, or holy war, that he and his younger brother, Jermaine, were banned from a mosque in this small industrial town.
"We said to them they were not welcome in the mosque, because they said some radical things," said a spokesman for the El Fath mosque, who spoke on condition of not being named. "We heard radical things from him about a year ago, so we contacted the authorities."
"I saw him many, many times in the evenings," said a 62-year-old retiree who lives on the same clean, narrow street of small two-story row houses where Jason and Jermaine Walters lived with their mother and two sisters. Jason Walters, this neighbor recalled, wore a long leather jacket and was cleanshaven, although his arrest pictures suggest he had begun growing a beard.
"He was afraid of the dog," the retiree said, pointing to Daisy, an elderly mixed breed stretched out in the driveway. "She liked Jason, but Jason didn't like her."
The neighbor and others recalled how Walters used to travel on a small, old moped, looking slightly out of fashion. "They bullied him about that at school," said the neighbor, who, like most people interviewed, spoke on condition they not be named.
The Walters family lived on de Graafdreef for nearly 10 years. The neighbors remembered Walters's American father, whom they called Carl, as a friendly man who worked at Soesterberg Air Force Base before it closed down. Carl Walters then went to work in a paint factory, neighbors said.
Carl Walters and his Dutch wife, Ingrid, divorced several years ago, the neighbors said, leaving her, the two boys and their two younger sisters in the small house. Ingrid Walters worked part time at a center for asylum seekers in Leusden, a village north of town, where she was remembered by her former boss as "a nice person -- well-spoken, polite, well-dressed."
Jason Walters's high school yearbook, from the Meridiaan secondary school in Amersfoort, shows his as the only black face in his class. He listed his hobbies as "football and internet" and wrote that "all the classes I went to were nice. The nicest part is to come -- when I get my degree." His ambition seemed simple enough: "Married with two children. And a nice job and a nice house."
After his conversion to Islam about 2 1/2 years ago, according to Dutch police and news reports, Walters at some point left the Netherlands and traveled to Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan.