Five years before D.C. transit cop Nicholas Young was arraigned on terrorism charges in the Alexandria, Virginia, federal courthouse, he allegedly told an undercover officer about his plans to smuggle guns into the building to attack law enforcement.
Young’s arrest Wednesday morning on charges that he provided material support to ISIS ended a six-year investigation that saw him allegedly fantasizing about shooting up a courthouse, going to fight in Libya, and befriending two convicted terrorists.
Young is a convert to Islam and a 12-year veteran of the D.C. Metro Transit police (and was fired after his arrest). His arrest is the 100th on ISIS-related charges since 2014.
Transit police said they tipped off the FBI at some point.
“Metro Transit Police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation up to and including today’s arrest,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld told The Daily Beast in a statement. “Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform.”
That year Young allegedly began a friendship with a confidential FBI informant posing as an Army reservist who wanted to fight for the caliphate. Young allegedly told the informant that he wouldn’t get into trouble unless he “talked about or admitted his plans to join ISIL,” according to court documents using the government’s name for the so-called Islamic State.
The source pretended to have joined ISIS and then communicated with Young through a FBI agent posed as him to communicate with Young through a disposable email account. On one occasion in early 2015, Young allegedly praised the Charlie Hebdo attacks to the agents reading the email.
“Not sure if you got the news there yet…A couple brothers…were named in an assault on a french newspaper,” he wrote. “Hopefully now people understand there are some lines you don’t cross.”
Later, Young allegedly emailed that he needed help moving money out of the U.S. because he had “enough flags on my name that I can’t even buy a plane ticket without little alerts ending up in someone’s hands.”
Court documents state that Young was interviewed by police about a domestic violence allegation in June 2015. No other details are available about that incident, but he allegedly told police at the time that he dressed up as Jihadi John for Halloween 2014 and “stuffed an orange jumpsuit with paper to portray a headless hostage.”
Jihadi John was the nickname given to a British ISIS member who beheaded American hostages on video believed to be Mohammed Emwazi.
Young paraded the decapitated jumpsuit throughout a party, he told police. Then he showed them a tattoo of a Imperial German eagle on his neck and said he collected Nazi memorabilia and dressed up as Nazis, according to an FBI affidavit.
As the FBI circled Young in December 2015, they interviewed him about the whereabouts of their confidential human source, who pretended to go to Syria. They even emailed Young from the man’s email, saying that his mother had been questioned as well. They switched to an encrypted messaging platform, according to the affidavit.
On the app, the undercover FBI agents asked Young for gift cards to pay for messaging apps to recruit more Westerners for ISIS. They told them that ISIS bought accounts for one-time use.
Eventually, Young allegedly sent the agents posing as ISIS 22 sixteen-digit codes for gift cards.
“Glad it came through,” he allegedly messaged from an account on the service on July 30, 2016. “Getting rid of device now…fo real. Gonna eat the Sim card.”
He was arrested four days later for the gift cards worth $245.
Undercover agents trailing Young reported that he worked to reduce his social media footprint for years and claimed to carry several burner phones as early as 2011. He would keep mum on his plans so that “people would find out what he was going to do after it happened,” Young told the undercover, according to the affidavit.
“Young said that if law enforcement searched Young’s home, they would have issues because Young was stockpiling weapons,” the affidavit said, adding that he owned an Egyptian AK-47, a Kimber 1911 .45 caliber pistol, and an AK-47 AMD rifle.
Young’s affection for jihad is long and personal, according to court documents. His friend Zachary Chesser was arrested in 2010 for attempting to provide material support to Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, and Amine El Khalifi, who met with Young, Chesser, and the undercover agent, is serving time for a plot to blow up the U.S. Capitol.
But when interrogated, Young allegedly told FBI agents that it would’ve been his religious duty to turn Chesser in if he suspected him of terror involvement.
An undercover officer assigned to befriend Young in light of his interactions with Chesser found a different side, though. Young allegedly told him in 2011 that he scanned for law enforcement tails outside with his home with an AK-47, and that if someone ratted him out “that person’s head would be in a cinder block at the bottom of Lake Braddock,” the documents state. The undercover agent even reported that Young claimed to have tortured animals as a child and that he fantasized plots about shooting up a federal courthouse.
Young allegedly told the FBI in a September 2011 interview that he traveled to Libya twice that year to fight with anti-Gaddafi forces. He took a kevlar helmet, body armor, and other items with him, according to baggage searches. He also brought them back. In a 2015 email, Young allegedly said that he’d served in Libya with a group that has possible links to al Qaeda, according to the documents.