A 20-year-old New Jersey man pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to give material support to the terrorist ISIS organization. Gregory Lepsky admitted on Tuesday that he planned to use a pressure cooker bomb, of the type used in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing, in New York City on behalf of ISIS. It came after reports came from around the country of bombs planted or planned at schools.
Documents filed in court noted that Lepsky was arrested by police in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, in February 2017 after an incident was reported at his family’s home. When police searched the home for evidence, they found a new pressure cooker stored behind a package of bubble wrap in Lepsky’s bedroom closet.
After conducting searches of computers, digital evidence showed that Lepsky had planned to build and then detonate a bomb in support of ISIS. Lepsky had told followers on social media that he wanted to fight for ISIS and become a martyr for Islam by driving a “bunch of explosives” to where the “enemies” could be found and blowing himself up.
According to a release from the Department of Justice, law enforcement officers located instructions that had been published online by another terrorist group that gave step-by-step instructions on how to build a pressure cooker bomb. This coincided with the delivery of the pressure cooker to Lepsky a short time before his arrest. Law enforcement officers also recovered a message forwarded by Lepsky from another ISIS supporter stating that if Lepsky could not travel to Syria to fight for ISIS, he could conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S. by using using improvised explosive devices.
Lepsky admitted at a plea hearing that as of January 2017, he was planning to detonate his pressure cooker bomb in New York City. He also admitted to have used the internet to access ISIS directives, obtain bomb-making instructions, and purchase the pressure cooker and other items to be used in the attack. Lepsky is facing a sentence of between 16 and 19 years in prison and a lifetime term of supervised release.
According to the original federal complaint, Lepsky was arrested by Point Pleasant police on Feb. 21, 2017 after a family member told police that he had a weapon and was threatening to kill the family dog. When police responded, they persuaded Lepsky to exit the residence. Once he was outside, police noticed that he was bleeding from one arm. When paramedics were treating Lepsky, he told them that he planned to kill his mother. Lepsky also pledged allegiance to Allah. He also explained that he had stabbed the family pet because Islam rules that dogs are unclean.
Lepsky later explained that he was a member of ISIS and claimed to have airline tickets to Turkey. At a local hospital, Lepsky told medical personnel that his name "Allah Abdel Rochmad" and had plans to detonate a pressure cooker bomb and "kill as many people as possible" in New York City. On the day after his arrest, Lepsky told police he planned to buy gunpowder in order to convert a pressure cooker into an explosive device. He also said he regretted stabbing the family dog because it alerted authorities to his terrorist plans.
Before his arrest, Lepsky had posted photographs of himself dressed in military clothing and wielding various firearms. He posted messages that he had converted to Islam and intended to depart to Syria. In text messages to a family member, Lepsky praised ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “I linked up with some guy I met on a chat website and he wants me to become Muslim and join ISIS,” Lepsky wrote, according to the FBI. “I really wanna go join ISIS.” In a Facebook message, Lepsky claimed that his father was a Muslim from Chechnya. Writing that his father had ceased to practice Islam, Lepsky wrote, “But I want to be different.” According to investigators, he added, “I want to be religious and grow up and be a martyr.”
In January 2017, New Jersey officials admitted that homegrown extremists constitute the most serious threat to the state and the nation.
In 2013, brothers Dzokhar (19) and Tamerlan (26) Tsarnaev detonated a pressure cooker bomb during the Boston Marathon. Federal agents determined that they had used black powder taken from fireworks to use an an accelerant for the improvised explosive device that killed three people and injured 260 others. Both were immigrants from Chechnya, as was the father of Gregory Lepsky, purportedly. Chechnya has been a hotbed of Muslim extremism. Russia send thousands of troops in a counter-insurgency operation against terrorists. In 2004, Muslim separatists seized a school in North Ossetia and demanded Russia's withdrawal from Chechnya. The seize lasted three days and resulted in the death of more than 300 people, including 186 children. Two years before, Chechen insurgents seized a theater in Moscow, which resulted in the death of 117 hostages.
The power of bombs
Homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with a bomb at the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. In May 1927, a bomb at a school in Bath, Michigan, killed 44 people, mostly children.
In 1999, teen killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold originally planned to detonate bombs at their high school in Columbine, Colorado. They went on to shoot and kill 13 students at their school before killing themselves in a rampage that brought about renewed calls for increased gun controls. . Between April and June 1919, bombs were sent by mail to prominent members of government and wealthy Americans by followers of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani. The scare led to multiple arrests of extremists and anarchists. Some 556 resident aliens were eventually deported as a result, while thousands were arrested.
Bombs and bomb threats at schools
In recent weeks, following the February 14 mass killing at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there has been a spate of bomb threats at schools. Accused killer Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people at school with a semi-automatic rifle. He had also planned to detonate a bomb in an attack that has inspired widespread demands for increased restrictions on the purchase of firearms. Since then, Austin, Texas, has seen three bombings in 10 days since March 3. A 17-year-old boy and a 39-year-man were killed, while a woman in her 70s was seriously injured. The FBI and ATF are investigating, while awards have been offered for information.
Elsewhere, there have been various bomb threats at schools all over the country. In University Heights, Ohio, a middle school was evacuated when a bomb threat was found scrawled on a bathroom wall. In Holt, Michigan, a female student confessed to writing bomb threats in a girl’s bathroom on February 13. In Augusta Township near Ann Arbor, Michigan, a bomb threat caused the evacuation of a high school on March 5.
An on March 5, a teenage male student at a high school in St. George, Utah, is facing charges for bringing an improvised explosive device to the school. The teenage alleged perpetrator had ignited the device in his backpack, which then emitted smoke. Students and faculty promptly evacuated. Additional charges are pending against the teen for allegedly raising the flag of the Islamic State (ISIS) on a pole at another high school in Utah on February 15 -- the day after the fatal mass shooting in Florida.
No one was hurt in the Utah incident. A student reported the backpack to a teacher, saving fellow students and faculty members. Police praised the students and faculty. The alleged perpetrator was arrested and is in detention facing charges of charges of manufacture, possession, sale, use or attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, according to St. George police. Police said that the bomb "had the potential to cause significant injury or death."