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Mass shooting at Florida mosque thwarted, Undercover FBI sting leads to arrest of Jacksonville man

Posted at 11:13 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-04 23:13:36-05

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Authorities say Bernandino Bolatete, 69,  was planning to "shoot up" a Jacksonville mosque before his arrest on Friday.

Bolatete is charged with possessing a silencer not registered to him, a federal crime, said Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams at a press conference Monday.

Bolatete is a Philippines national who has a green card, according to federal authorities.

A tip uncovered the alleged plot.

Hassan Shibly the Executive Director of CAIR Florida tells ABC Action News both his mom and sister attend the mosque that investigators say was targeted.

“It was very, very scary that a man was planning on carrying out a massacre there intentionally planning on killing women and children and unarmed individuals simply because he hates them,” Shibly said. “It was a close call. I’m very, very grateful.”

An undercover detective established a relationship with Bolatete, according to federal charging documents. The detective allegedly recorded several conversations with Bolatete, who authorities say said that he planned to be killed by police after shooting at mosque attendees from a nearby tower.

"I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know," Bolatete allegedly told the undercover detective, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI.

Shibly said they’ve held more than 40 safety and security active shooter training seminars over the last year. Shibly said they have also seen an increase in attacks against members of the Muslim community in Florida.

“Unfortunately, we’ve documented a 500 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crime and hate instants in the state of Florida since Trump started targeting the community,” Shibly said. “I didn’t hear the president condemning this terrorist plot that was planned against our mosque today.”
Bolatete allegedly claimed he had five guns, including semiautomatic rifles. Still, the suspect allegedly told the undercover detective that he wanted to buy a silencer, "because he 'might need it,'" the FBI agent wrote. 

"The suppressor is not really that 'quiet' but it can be used on the 4th of July or New Year (sic) time, it can easily blend with the sound of fireworks," Bolatete allegedly wrote in a Nov. 28 text message to the undercover detective.

An FBI spokesperson said Bolatete is being held by federal authorities, but did not say where exactly he is being detained.