Florida police say mass shooting by Filipino at mosque thwarted

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Law enforcement authorities said they prevented a mass shooting at a Jacksonville mosque and arrested a 69-year-old Filipino immigrant who allegedly hated Muslims.

Police charged Bernandino Gawala Bolatete with having a silencer not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record but obtained from an undercover officer. The silencer was sold December 1 in the parking lot of Academy Sports and Outdoors at 11901 Atlantic Blvd.

Bolatete, a green card holder, was arrested at his home and faces up to 10 years in federal prison if he is convicted on the weapons charge.

In a report by Action News Jax on Monday, Dec. 4, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Bolatete “had expressed a strong anti-Islamic sentiment” and “had weaponry to carry out the attack.”

He told an undercover agent he planned to climb the mosque’s minaret and that he had five rifles to use in the attack, according to an FBI complaint.

“It will be great, right,” he said while laughing, according to the FBI transcript of the secretly recorded conversation.

The FBI say Bolatete, who suffered from kidney problems, told an undercover agent he wanted to “shoot up” a mosque before he died.

Authorities said the suspect did not plan to survive the attack.

Police said the community was never in danger during their investigation, which began with an anonymous tip-off.

In a statement, the chairman of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida said they were “shocked” to learn of the investigation.

“We have no idea as to what was the motivation this individual had for his planned heinous act,” said spokesman Mr. Ashraf Shaikh.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the suspect’s brother Pedro Bolatete told local news channel CBS 47, the suspect works at Wacko’s liquor store in nearby Emerson.

The investigation started in October when the Sheriff’s Office received a tip that Bolatete “expressed a hatred for Muslims and made a specific threat to ‘shoot up’ a mosque,” according to the complaint.

The undercover officer recorded conversations with Bolatete on Nov. 10, Nov. 14, Nov. 20 and Nov. 24 and provided them to the FBI as evidence, according to the complaint, according to Jacksonville.com.

“If I ever decide to do that I’m not thinking of getting caught,” Bolatete said, according to the transcript. “I’ll … I’ll die there in that area. [laughter] They’ll be some sort of suicide thing … suicide by police?”

He apparently has only one kidney left and it was no longer functioning fully. Police said this meant that Bolatete did not expect to survive the intended mass shooting.

The complaint stated that Bolatete had practiced shooting with the undercover officer at a gun range. They also drove by the Islamic Center and he pointed out to the officer the tower from which the mass shooting could be done. He told the officer he had five guns, including an AR-15 that could be converted to an AR-47. He also said Muslims attended the mosque on Fridays, so that would likely be the day of the attack.

Bolatete is a native of Tagbilaran City who used to work as an insurance executive at a Metro Manila firm before migrating to the United States of America.

He arrived in the US in 2010 after his brother petitioned the US government for a visa, known as a green card.

The Sheriff’s Office worked with the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other agencies throughout the investigation. – Inquirer.net