An FBI sting operation has thwarted a plan to bomb a synagogue in Miami, Florida.
“The suspect apparently plotted to throw an explosive device over a wall and into the synagogue grounds during Friday night services, as congregants would have been marking the start of Shabbat and the final day of Passover,” reports the Times of Israel. “He was arrested before he could carry out the attack and the synagogue was never in danger.”
The Times of Israel describes the targeted Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center as a conservative synagogue that serves 800 families in a thriving Jewish community, with a campus that includes “an early childhood education center and a Holocaust memorial, as well as several social halls.”
The Miami Herald quotes law enforcement sources describing him as “anti-Semitic,” with several previous minor offenses on his record.
Most pertinently, he was accused in 2012 of “texting violent threats to a Coral Springs family and their church.” When a police officer called Medina about these text messages, the suspect declared, “it’s going down” and hung up.
Because the text messages included explicit threats to bomb the church or attack it in a gun rampage — Medina actually used the word “rampage” — he was charged with aggravated stalking and the family was placed under a temporary protection order.
The family is said to have received about 50 more threatening text messages after the protection order was issued. However, the Sun-Sentinel reports that prosecutors eventually dropped the felony aggravated stalking charge against him.
Local news station WSVN reports Medina “may have converted to Islam” and was caught by FBI agents who approached him posing as terrorists.
Aventura residents said they were surprised and horrified by the arrest.
“It’s a very scary world, and you know what? I don’t think that anybody is safe anywhere. We’d always thought, living in this area, that we could be targeted, so now you’re kind of confirming that for me. Not happy,” said local resident Kim Tepper, as quoted by WSVN.
“The leadership of our congregation has been briefed by law enforcement and Jewish community security officials about this situation. They assured us that the synagogue and school were never at risk at any time during the investigation and arrest, and that there are no credible threats directed against us at the present time,” the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center said in a statement.
“Please be assured that our security protocols are well in place, which includes close coordination with local law enforcement agencies to insure the security of our facility and the safety of our members, children, staff and visitors,” the center added.
The FBI has declined to officially comment on the case so far, but Medina is reportedly scheduled to appear in court early this week.
The Sun-Sentinel quotes Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Schall confirming that “there was a national security-related arrest on Friday and that there is no current threat to public safety associated with this arrest.”