A mass shooting was prevented at a Jacksonville, Florida mosque by the local Sheriff’s department and the FBI. A tip in October led law enforcement officers to Bernandino Bolatete, 69, who revealed to an undercover detective his hatred of Muslims and his plan to carry out the shooting.
Bolatete and the detective met on numerous occasions at local gun ranges where Bolatete revealed he was already in possession of the weapons needed for the attack. The weapons included five rifles, including one AR-15 that could be converted to an AR-47.
Bolatete said he intended to climb the mosque’s minaret and use the high-powered rifles in the attack, after which he planned to “commit suicide by cop.”
He planned to carry out the attack against the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida on a Friday, because, as he told the detective, “their Sunday equivalent to us Christians is Friday…go up to the tower and start shooting, right? It will be great, right?”
Bolatete also revealed his motive to the detective. “I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their medicine, you know? They are the ones who are always doing the shootings, the killings. You know…let them try it themselves,” he said.
During the investigation, law enforcement agencies notified the FBI, which implemented a plan to protect the mosque.
“Due to many safeguards we had in place during this investigation, at no time were [the imam] or the members of his congregation at risk,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Spencer.
Bolatete was arrested after an undercover agent sold him a gun silencer. Buying a silencer not registered to the purchaser is a federal offense that carries with it up to 10 years in prison. At present, that is the only charge against Bolatete, but law enforcement officials say more charges may be forthcoming.
Bolatete came to the U.S. from the Philippines eight years ago. To an undercover agent, Bolatete told how, when he lived in the Philippines, he had an argument with a police officer who shot him. Bolatete fired back and killed the officer.
He said he had health problems stemming from only having one kidney and that he might have to go on dialysis soon.