A Jacksonville, Fla., man has been thwarted in his plans to murder Muslims at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. Bernandino Bolatete, a 69-year-old Filipino immigrant, bought a silencer from an undercover officer and was arrested on a federal weapons violation last week.
As Jacksonville News 4 reports, before buying the silencer, Bolatete had divulged his hatred of Muslims to an undercover officer and shared a plan for shooting up a mosque.
According to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, local detectives learned of the mass-shooting threat in late October from an anonymous tip; police immediately launched an investigation, and the FBI was alerted.
“The investigation confirmed that the suspect was making plans to carry out a mass shooting, and he already had the weaponry necessary to complete the attack,” Williams said.
The criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office against Bolatete includes a transcript of conversations he had with the undercover detective. Bolatete told the officer that he had five rifles, including an AR-15 that could be converted into an AR-47.
Bolatete had gone so far as to suggest that he would shoot up the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida on a Friday because it was their “Sunday equivalent to us Christians.”
“Go up to the tower and start shooting, right? It will be great, right?” Bolatete reportedly told the undercover detective.
Bolatete also said that he had no intentions of getting caught or surviving the mass shooting, if he did carry it out.
“I’ll … I’ll die there in that area,” Bolatete said in the official transcript. “There’ll be some sort of suicide thing … suicide by police?”
He also claimed to have already killed once before. Bolatate said that when he lived in the Philippines, he got into an argument with a police officer. After the cop shot him, Bolatate says, he returned fire and killed the officer.
Meanwhile, one of Bolatete’s former co-workers told Jacksonville’s News 4 that she knew Bolatete as “a sweet old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly.” She also claims that she never heard her former colleague say anything negative about Muslims.
Sheriff Williams said that law enforcement, once it learned of Bolatete’s intentions, made plans to protect the Islamic Center as the investigation continues. Now that Bolatete has been arrested, the center’s imam has been told that the threat against the center has been “neutralized.”
Bolatate is due in federal court today for a bond hearing for Bolatate.
Read more at News 4 Jacksonville.