Man arrested in foiled Aventura terror plot, sources say
Terror suspect planned to detonate bomb at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center
AVENTURA, Fla. – A South Florida man is in custody, accused of plotting a terror attack, Local 10 News learned Friday and held off on making public while law enforcement hunted other possible suspects.
The man was arrested Friday night on Biscayne Boulevard in Aventura by a SWAT team from Washington, D.C., sources told Local 10 News.
Court records show that James Medina, 40, of Hollywood, is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Local 10 News has learned the man was meeting with an undercover agent to pick up what he thought was an explosive device that he planned to detonate at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center.
The center recently underwent a threat assessment, but it is unclear whether that had anything to do with its location as an alleged terror target.
The center's rabbi, Jonathan Berkun, and executive director, Elliot Karp, released a joint statement early Monday morning, reading in part:
"As you may already know from local news reports, law enforcement authorities arrested an individual on Friday in Aventura on well-founded terrorism suspicions. The leadership of our congregation has been briefed by law enforcement and Jewish community security officials about this situation. They assured us that the synagogue and school were never at risk at any time during the investigation and arrest, and that there are no credible threats directed against us at the present time.
Please be assured that our security protocols are well in place, which includes close coordination with local law enforcement agencies to insure the security of our facility and the safety of our members, children, staff and visitors. We will continue to review our procedures in consultation with our security consultant and law enforcement officials to take whatever measures are necessary to insure the safety and security of our synagogue and members.
We are extremely grateful to our partners in law enforcement for their professionalism, care and commitment throughout this incident, and for providing us with security all year-round. We greatly appreciate your concern as well. Should you have any questions, please direct them to us. Thank you."
Berkun greeted parents and children of the pre-school operated by the Jewish center.
Workers at the Jubilee Center of South Broward told Local 10 that Medina is homeless and regularly eats lunch at the shelter. They said he left his identification card last week and was supposed to pick it up Monday, but he never came.
LeAnna Vasquez, executive director of the Jubilee Center of South Broward, said she was "shocked" to learn of the allegation against Medina.
"I really would not have expected that," Vasquez told Local 10 News reporter Ben Kennedy.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, said in a statement Monday that she was "grateful" to the FBI for apprehending the suspect before he could do any harm.
"I am deeply grateful that the FBI arrested this individual before he was allegedly able to do harm to the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center and its congregants, so many of whom are my constituents, who were observing the end of Passover," she said. "I will be in contact with federal and local authorities immediately and working with them to ensure our community's places of worship -- no matter what faith -- are safe for all those who worship in them."
The indictment against the man is expected to be unsealed Monday.
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