A Charlotte, North Carolina, man identified as Erick Jamal Hendricks, 35, was arrested and could face a maximum of 15 years in prison for trying to provide material support for the Islamic State. The affidavit states Hendricks is accused of 18 U.S. Code § 2339B – Providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations and 18 U.S. Code § 2339A– Providing material support to terrorists.
He allegedly tried to recruit people over social media for “sleeper cells” in order to plot attacks and carry them out in the U.S. in support of Islamic State. One of his goals was to spend at least $30,000 to make a secure training site in the United States. Hendricks advised his recruits to die as martyrs, to “boobie trap your homes,” to “lay in wait for them,” and to “never leave your home without your AK-47 or M16.” Hendricks told his recruits to avoid prison at all costs, even giving up their lives as martyrs to prevent being arrested. He viewed imprisonment as an act of humiliation. The affidavit also shows he communicated with Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, prior to them carrying out the terrorist attack in Garland, Texas.
A cooperating witness, arrested in June 2015 on terrorism charges in Ohio, helped build the case against Hendricks. Though he is not identified in the affidavit by name, the only person who matches the description in the documents is Amir Said Abdul Rahman Al-Ghazi, previously known as Robert McCollum. Like the cooperating witness mentioned in the affidavit, Al-Ghazi was arrested on terrorism, weapons, and drug charges in June of that year. And, like the cooperating witness, Al-Ghazi pleaded guilty to material support for a terrorist organization and two charges of being a felon in possession of firearms.
Though Hendricks was charged on Thursday, the allegations against him focus on March 1, 2015 to May 31, 2015, just before McCollum’s arrest.
Hendricks also went by “Mustafa” and “Abu Harb” (“Father of War”), according to the affidavit—aliases he used in the process of allegedly trying to recruit McCollum for his ISIS cell.
When McCollum was arrested, agents asked him whether he knew anyone who had been talking about the Garland attack.
“Fuck. I didn’t know about Garland before it happened but a brother had contacted me,” McCollum said. “His name on [the messaging app] was Abu Harb.”
His primary targets were military personnel and specifically the woman who organized the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest,” in Garland, Texas. According to the DOJ press release,
On April 23, 2015, Hendricks allegedly used social media to contact Elton Simpson, who, along with Nadir Hamid Soofi, was inspired by ISIL and launched the attack on the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” in Garland. Simpson and Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard, before Garland police returned fire and killed both Simpson and Soofi. According to the complaint, Hendricks also connected UCE-1 with Simpson via social media; communicated with UCE-1 about the contest in Garland; and directed UCE-1 to go to the contest. Hendricks allegedly said: “If you see that pig (meaning the organizer of the contest) make your ‘voice’ heard against her.” According to the complaint, he also asked UCE-1 a series of questions related to security at the event, including: “How big is the gathering?” “How many ppl?” “How many police/agents?” “Do you see feds there?’ “Do you see snipers?” and “How many media?” Shortly thereafter, Simpson and Soofi committed the attack on the cartoon drawing contest.
An article from The Daily Beast states that an undercover FBI agent encouraged Elton Simpson in a text message to carry out the terrorist attack in Garland, Texas. Hendricks introduced the undercover FBI agent to one of the attackers through his various social media accounts. The Daily Beast article seems to make the argument that the undercover FBI agent may have overstepped his role in the case by sending the attacker the text message. Based on the information listed in the affidavit, it appears that Hendricks had more influence on Simpson and Soofi prior to the attack than the undercover FBI agent did. They probably would have carried out the attack even if the undercover FBI agent did not send Simpson the text message. You can read the text message from the affidavit below:
“Tear up Texas,” the agent messaged Elton Simpson days before he opened fire at the Draw Muhammad event, according to an affidavit filed in federal court Thursday.
“U know what happened in Paris,” Simpson responded. “So that goes without saying… No need to be direct.”- Daily Beast
Recently, there has been quite a few people arrested for either trying to provide material support for terrorists or even attempting to travel overseas to fight alongside ISIS. Will a maximum sentence of 15 years be enough to “rehabilitate” a terrorist or someone seeking to support terrorism? Or will they just become more radicalized in prison and be an even bigger threat once released from prison?
Image courtesy of NBC News