ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A former FBI agent is giving ABC Action News insight into the case of an accused terror suspect from Tampa Bay.
After scouting St. Pete Police Headquarters from “high vantage points,” court documents say Abraham Quraishi parked his car next to police barricades during a protest on June 3.
Inside his car, police say, was a Molotov cocktail.
“If they hadn’t caught this person when they did, he could have escalated very quickly into things that he already had the means and the motive and the opportunity to use,” said Bryanna Fox, a former FBI agent who now teaches criminal psychology at the University of South Florida.
ABC Action News was first to report that Quraishi now faces several charges, including terrorist activity and inciting a riot.
The death of George Floyd has sparked months-long demonstrations across Tampa Bay. Local law enforcement leaders have warned of “bad actors” infiltrating otherwise peaceful protests.
“It does sound like he fits the mold of this bad actor where he was almost looking for a reason to act out violently, looking for a cover, looking for some mechanism so he could do the thing he already wanted to do and these protests seemed like the opportune situation,” said Fox.
Investigators believe Quraishi was not acting alone.
St. Pete Police officers arrested Quraishi’s roommate, Seanfrancis Ziegenbein, last week for making or discharging a destructive device.
According to court records, Ziegenbein was identified on video holding a lit Molotov cocktail, then throwing it in the parking lot of Vertical Ventures in St. Petersburg.
The homemade bottle bomb was later discovered by the business owner.
He stated it was a beer bottle with a substance that smelled like lighter fluid/accelerant and burnt cloth wick.
“Because they share an ideology, not only do they find each other, they can talk, but they often build upon each other. So one person will say, ‘hey, we should do this.’ And another person one-ups them,” said Fox.
Fox said since this case centers on terrorist activity, federal agents will likely join the investigation
A Tampa attorney representing both defendants told ABC Action News he is not commenting on the charges.