York police urged South Carolina’s juvenile parole board not to free a York County teen who wanted to join ISIS because he “is a terrorist” who “planned to assassinate Americans,” including any police officers who got in his way.
In new revelations Monday, York Police Lt. Rich Caddell told the parole board that the teen whose family is from Syria “explained his plan” to go to the Raleigh, N.C., area with another man to rob a gun store, and the teen was prepared to kill any police officers who tried to stop him.
Caddell said he asked the teen if he would have killed him.
“He replied, “I like you, but if you would have tried to stop me I would have killed you,’ Caddell told a four-member panel of the juvenile parole board.
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The teen, whose name is not being released because of his age, has been in juvenile prison since April 2015 after he pleaded guilty with a sentence of prison up to age 21 for gun possession. He had his first parole hearing Monday after admitting to police after his arrest in February that he wanted to join ISIS and plotted with an unnamed Muslim radical from North Carolina to rob a gun store in central North Carolina, then use the weapon to massacre American troops near Fort Bragg, N.C.
The board will decide by Wednesday whether to free the teen, now 17. The teen, who went to York Comprehensive High School before his arrest, pleaded guilty only to a gun charge in South Carolina Family Court because despite an FBI probe into the plot, the United States and South Carolina have no criminal laws in place to deal with juveniles involved in terrorism.
On Monday, Caddell told the board the teen is a “very dangerous individual” and that the threat was so severe when the teen was arrested in February 2015 that police and prosecutors kept the case under wraps, without releasing the arrest to the public and the media, so that the FBI could continue its investigation.
Bob Hamilton of the York County Sheriff’s Office, liaison with the FBI for York County, told the parole board that the federal investigation into the plot to kill U.S. troops by the teen and the unnamed other man remains ongoing.
Hamilton told the parole board the teen is a “threat to national security.”
Police told the parole board they believe the teen is the youngest and most closely involved teen with ISIS ties in South Carolina, and that the judicial system’s lack of state and federal laws make the country ill-equipped to deal with a defendant who is not an adult.
York Police Chief Andy Robinson bluntly told the board the teen “is a terrorist” who recruited for ISIS and “planned to assassinate American citizens.”
“He is one of the scariest people I have ever come in contact with,” Robinson told the board Monday in a 15-minute hearing. “The FBI has confirmed this was a credible threat.”
The teen admitted he paid $400 for a handgun and rifle that he had in his possession when arrested by York police after they were tipped that the teen was boasting at school and on social media about joining ISIS. After York police raided the teen’s home, they found social media connecting him to ISIS, an ISIS flag, the weapons and other evidence that linked the teen to ISIS.
However, the FBI has declined to comment on the teen or the other alleged conspirator since the teen pleaded guilty in April.
The gun possession conviction carries a sentence up to age 21, but the teen’s sentence will reach the legal extent for that charge of 18 months in prison later this year, parole officials said Monday. Whether or not the teen is released this week, he likely will be released in 2016 unless the federal government gets involved with other charges.
The teen claimed Monday to have learned from his mistakes but did not mention ISIS or terrorism. He was not questioned about it by the parole board. In the parole board hearing, the teen stated that when he bought the guns, “I was not thinking the right way – I learned from my mistakes.” The teen claimed to have bought the guns for protection from burglaries in York, saying his father had died and he was the man of the house.
The teen’s lawyer, Tom Elliott, claimed that the teen has fulfilled his responsibility in juvenile prison and should be released, saying he hoped the parole board would not “rush to judgment” after police earlier in the hearing spoke about terrorism and a threat to the public if the teen is released.
Elliott said the federal government has never charged the teen or anyone else with any terrorism or conspiracy crime despite police and a York prosecutor in April saying the teen was plotting with another man to commit mass murder.
“Where are the charges?” Elliott asked. “The federal government has had a year to do something – and they haven’t.”
After the hearing, Robinson the police chief said he hoped the parole board “got the message” he was trying to tell them about the teen.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065