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Terror suspect claimed ISIS sympathies and planned to bomb Los Angeles freeways and the Santa Monica Pier, FBI says

Key Points
  • Authorities arrest a Los Angeles man described as a U.S. Army veteran on terror-related charges that include threats against a local landmark and freeways.
  • The suspect is identified as Mark Steven Domingo, 26, of Reseda, California, according to a press release Monday from the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Authorities say Domingo expressed support for ISIS and discussed wanting to use explosives at the Santa Monica Pier and on L.A. freeways.
  • Online rants by Domingo, who expressed anger at the killings of Muslims last month in New Zealand mosque attacks, tip off investigators.
Evening traffic leaving Los Angeles on 405 freeway North.
Pictures Ltd. | Corbis | Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Authorities have arrested a Los Angeles man described as a U.S. military veteran on terror-related charges that include threats against a local landmark and freeways.

The suspect was identified as Mark Steven Domingo, 26, of Reseda, California, according to a press release issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice. It said Domingo "was arrested Friday night after he received what he thought was a live bomb, but in fact was an inert explosive device that was delivered by an undercover law enforcement officer as part of an investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force."

"Domingo, a former U.S. Army Infantryman, wanted to use improvised explosive devices against innocent civilians and he selected components that would make the bombs even more deadly to the victims he targeted," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. "His arrest today mitigates the threat he posed to others in the Los Angeles community."

The government said Domingo faces federal charges in a terrorist plot in which he planned to detonate an improvised explosive device for the purpose of causing mass casualties.

According to the federal prosecutors, Domingo in online posts and conversations with an FBI source "expressed support for violent jihad, a desire to seek retribution for attacks against Muslims, and a willingness to become a martyr." During an April 3 meeting, the suspect allegedly expressed support for ISIS and said "if ISIS 'came here,' he would swear allegiance to ISIS," according to the complaint.

Domingo, who recently converted to Islam and has combat experience in Afghanistan, also discussed wanting to use explosives at the Santa Monica Pier and plotted to set off explosives on L.A. freeways, authorities said. He also made threatening comments about wanting to harm LAPD officers.

"After considering various attacks — including targeting Jews, churches, and police officers — Domingo decided to detonate an IED at a rally scheduled to take place in Long Beach this past weekend," the DOJ said. "As part of the plot, Domingo asked his confederate — who actually was cooperating with the FBI as part of the investigation — to find a bomb-maker, and Domingo last week purchased several hundred nails to be used as shrapnel inside the IED."

The suspect "specifically bought three-inch nails because they would be long enough to penetrate the human body and puncture internal organs," according to the 30-page affidavit.

"I'm extremely glad to be announcing that we interdicted a potential terrorist attack, rather than outlining the FBI's response to yet another tragedy," said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office. "At no time was the public in danger and there is currently no known threat to public safety."

Online rants from the suspect tipped off investigators about Domingo, who expressed anger at the killings of Muslims last month in New Zealand mosque attacks. The suspect had been put under surveillance since he posted threatening comments a few weeks ago.

Domingo had several guns, including a modified AK-47-style rifle, when he was arrested in the sting operation.

The suspect is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles.

"We know that there are others out in our communities that will find some rationale, in some twisted manner, to go out and act in a manner similar to this man," said LAPD Chief Michel Moore. "And what is really needed is a continued vigilance of each of our communities, of each of our houses of faith, of each American, to know that this is not television."

The threat against LA follows Saturday's deadly shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, located in San Diego County. A 19-year-old suspect was arrested in connection with the synagogue shooting, which killed one person and injured four others.

In the wake of the synagogue shooting and hate attacks across the country, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his May budget revision will include $15 million in additional funds to help religious and community-based nonprofits strengthen security. 

"We all must call out hate – against any and all communities – and act to defend those targeted for their religious beliefs, who they love or how they identify," said Newsom.