The case began after Joseph posted photographs of weapons and messages in support of the Islamic State on his social media accounts, according to a news release about Joseph’s arrest from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Ohio’s Northern District.
Undercover FBI agents began corresponding with Joseph. In some of these discussions, Joseph said he supported the Islamic State and made propaganda “in support of ISIS recruitment,” which included videos to recruit people, according to the release. And he expressed his support for violence, officials said.
He said that he supported “martyrdom operations,” that “what must be done, must be done” and that “there will always be casualties of war.”
After a gunman killed 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Joseph told an undercover agent that he “admire[d] what the guy did with the shooting,” federal officials said.
“I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah,” Joseph said, according to officials. “They wouldn’t even expect in my area.”
On Dec. 2, Joseph forwarded a document that specified his plans for an attack. He described attacking where a large number of people were gathered to inflict the most casualties, officials said.
Two days later, he said he was deciding between two synagogues in the area, saying the choice depended on “which one will have the most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home.”
He told an undercover agent he wanted to a kill a rabbi, saying that he hoped to attack two synagogues but that it was more realistic to attack only one, officials said. On Dec. 7, Joseph met with the undercover agent and took from the agent a black duffel bag containing two semiautomatic rifles that had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement officers, the release said. Agents then arrested him.
“In a matter of months, Damon Joseph progressed from radicalized, virtual jihadist to attack planner,” acting special agent in charge Jeff Fortunato of the FBI’s Cleveland division said in the release. “He ultimately decided to target two Toledo-area synagogues for a mass-casualty attack in the name of ISIS. Joseph will now be accountable in a court of law for his pursuit of a violent act of terrorism upon our fellow citizens attending their desired house of worship.”
In another case in northeast Ohio, officials arrested Elizabeth Lecron, 23, and charged her with transporting explosives and explosive material. Lecron, investigators said, had said she wanted to commit a mass murder in the area.