Sheriff: Suspect had plan, weapons to carry out mass shooting

Posted at 5:15 AM, Dec 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-05 05:15:59-05

JACKSONVILLE, FL (WAWS/WFOX/WJAX/CNN) – Authorities announced Monday they arrested a man in Florida who they say expressed hatred for Muslims and had plotted an attack on an Islamic center.

The suspect, 69-year-old Bernandino Bolatete, is facing a federal charge for possessing a silencer not registered to him.

The FBI says authorities raided Bolatete’s home in Jacksonville, FL, Friday to see if he had other illegal weapons.

Sheriff Mike Williams says the investigation started when a confidential source alerted authorities in October about a plot against the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

An undercover officer contacted Bolatete and recorded conversations confirming the intention to carry out the attack.

The two went to shooting ranges together several times during the investigation, and officials say during those meetings, Bolatete expressed hatred for Muslims and made threats to shoot up the mosque several times.

Bolatete told the officer he knew how to go up into the tower at the Jacksonville mosque and that he had five rifles, including an AR-15 that could be converted to an AR-47.

At one of the meetings, he told the officer he did not plan to survive the attack.

In a sting operation, the officer sold Bolatete a silencer, and a SWAT team arrested him on the weapons violation Friday.

"They assured us that the person who had planned to do harm has been arrested and that we should feel assured that he'll be put away for a while,” said Ashraf Shaiikh with the Islamic center.

Bolatete has a green card and is a Philippines national, an FBI spokesperson says.

A civil rights investigation is underway, and Bolatete could face more charges, officials say.

Copyright 2017 WAWS, WFOX, WJAX via CNN. All rights reserved.