Federal authorities charged a 20-year-old Topeka man Friday with plotting to bomb Fort Riley in league with, he believed, the so-called Islamic State.
John Thomas Booker Jr., also known as Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, was named with in three counts that alleged he planned on Friday to use a “weapon of mass destruction” to damage property at the U.S. Army Base near Junction City in a suicide mission.
He was arrested without incident 9 a.m. Friday. Conviction on any count could mean a sentence of life in prison. The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom.
More than a year ago, court records contend, Booker posted on Facebook that “I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I’m going to wage jihad and hopes that i die.” A few days later, according to the charges, he said “getting ready to be killed in jihad is a HUGE adrenaline rush!!”
That, the charges contend, prompted a tip to FBI agents who interviewed him.
Booker had enlisted in the U.S. Army with the intent to “commit an insider attack against American soldiers,” the court records allege he told FBI agents.
The court records say he talked of shooting other soldiers in basic training — although preferring “someone with power” rather than “privates” — or being deployed overseas and turning on Americans if he was told to kill a fellow Muslim.
But he apparently enlisted under a delayed entry program and never became a part of the Army.
Months later, in October 2014, the charges contend Booker came in contact with an FBI informant and said he wanted to be part of the Islamic State, sometimes referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Authorities on Friday contended that Booker had created at least two videos — one filmed in front of a collection of bomb materials — rented a 10-foot-by-20-foot storage locker in Topeka and went to several retailers buying bomb materials.
But they said there was never a breach in security at Fort Riley. And the assembled bomb material was inert, incapable of explosion.
Still, the court records contend Booker planned a specific route through the base and targeted particular buildings to be struck with a car bomb. He had identified a utility gate to the base chosen because Booker believed his entry would not easily be detected and he could find an area where the car bomb “would kill as many soldiers as possible,” the charges contend.
While he was making the final connections to arm the car bombs at that gate, the charges allege, he was arrested by the FBI.
The court document describes a man eager to go overseas to fight with the Islamic State and a willingness take his fight to “the White House right now.”
Booker told an informant that a “suicide bomb is his number one aspiration because he couldn’t be captured, all evidence would be destroyed, and he would be guaranteed to hit his target.”
Roughly a year ago in early April 2014, FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said the bureau had questioned Booker in the wake of reports he harbored “jihad sympathies” and determined there was no public danger. She declined to release additional details.
“It is the belief that the public is in no imminent danger,” Patton said at the time.
She also told The Topeka Capital-Journal “there was never a manhunt” for Booker. When asked by the newspaper then if Booker was in custody, Patton said additional information wouldn’t be released.
Topeka police Capt. Scott Conklin also told the Capital-Journal last year that “the FBI has an ongoing investigating that involves that person.” Conklin said Booker was a Topeka resident, and local authorities hadn’t questioned him.