Milwaukee man charged

The FBI apprehended a 23-year-old “Milwaukee resident” Samy Hamzeh to prevent a planned incident of “gun violence” at the Masonic Temple. He was arrested on weapons charges. Mohamed is his middle name. He is a native Arabic speaker. Milwaukee’s WISN reports that he moved with his family from “Palestine” (give me a break) when he was 17.

We can prevent such massacres if we’re lucky. As in the numerous cases of “Minnesota men,” we can’t prevent the euphemisms and evasions. (Okay, maybe Donald Trump can.)

The arrest represents another sorry case of Islam misunderstood. The defendant sought to carry out a San Bernardino style massacre. His original plan was to kill Israelis on the West Bank.

The FBI has issued an illuminating press release on the charges filed yesterday against Samy Mohamed Hamza. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

A terrorist-style plot intended to kill dozens of people with automatic weapons at a Masonic center in Milwaukee was foiled this week by FBI agents, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Samy Mohamed Hamzeh discussed his plan to attack the center with two others, detailing how they would quickly and quietly kill the first people they saw and then methodically move through the building, “eliminating everyone” they encountered, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Hamzeh, 23, has been charged with possessing a machine gun and a silencer. Despite indications of an attempted act of terrorism, Hamzeh is not charged with any terrorism counts.

“We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion, we are on our own, my dear, we have organized our own group,” Hamzeh said, according to the criminal complaint, adding he was confident it would trigger more attacks in the United States.

“Such operations will increase in America, when they hear about it. The people will be scared and the operations will increase, and there will be problems all over,… this will lead to people clashing with each other. This way we will be igniting it. I mean we are marching at the front of the war,” he said, according to the complaint.

Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad called it a “detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people.”

“(Hamzeh) also said that he wanted this mass shooting to be ‘known the world over’ and to ‘ignite’ broader clashes. It is difficult to calculate the injury and loss of life that was prevented by concerned citizens coming forward and by the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

Hamzeh does not claim a connection to an established, known terrorist group, according to the complaint. At one point he says, “We have our own group, not with Hamas, … we are here defending Islam, young people together join to defend Islam, that’s it, that is what our intention is.”

Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, said a criminal complaint is used to arrest someone and it appears there was urgency to take Hamzeh into custody. Prosecutors still must present the case to the grand jury, when additional charges may be added, including a terrorism-related count, but that will depend on the facts of the case, Cramer said. Such counts generally require approval from the Justice Department in Washington.

Hamzeh — who most recently worked at a downtown gym where he was fired for being too intense, gym owner Delia Luna said — appeared in federal court in Milwaukee Tuesday and remains in custody by order of U.S. Magistrate Judge David Jones. Hamzeh will have court-appointed counsel but an attorney has not been assigned, according to federal defender Daniel Stiller, who did not have further comment on the case.

Hamzeh was planning to attack the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center, a historic building on N. Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee that hosts weddings, conferences, meetings and other special events. The Wisconsin Scottish Rite, which purchased the building in 1912, has been in the community since 1863.

Hamzeh had scouted the Masonic center by taking a tour and spoke in detail about how the attack would occur, the complaint says. A woman in the lobby of the center Tuesday afternoon told a reporter that the staff had no comment.

Hamzeh had been under investigation by the FBI since September, which used confidential informants who secretly recorded him. Undercover FBI agents arrested him this week after he tried to buy automatic weapons from them, the complaint says.

Hamzeh originally had planned to travel to Jordan to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, but ditched those plans because of logistical issues and focused on attacking a target in the U.S., according to the criminal complaint.

He hatched a plan to attack a Masonic center in Milwaukee with two others, who were actually the informants cooperating with the FBI.

Last week, Hamzeh and the informants went to a local shooting range and practiced firing a handgun. Afterward, they went to the Masonic center and got a tour of the facility. Later, Hamzeh spoke with the informants in detail about the planned attack, according to the complaint.

The Journal Sentinel story has more details, whole thing here.