FBI Undercover Officer Hunting Homegrown Terrorists Was at Cartoon Contest During Shooting

On Thursday a federal court in Ohio unsealed the affidavit of an FBI agent that chronicles the chase of a homegrown, ISIS-supporting terrorist cell during the lead-up to an armed attack on a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland. The documents show that an FBI agent was in touch with one shooter on social media and had discussed the attack before it happened with an alleged plotter who helped set the attack in motion last year. 

The document (attached below) is a candid and rare glimpse into the world of snitches, informants and undercover agents who vie against a shadowy, social-media connected network of wannabe domestic terrorists.   
Agents yesterday arrested 35-year-old Erick Jamal Hendricks on charges that he recruited aspiring jihadis to commit terror attacks, including the May 3, 2015, attack in Garland by Elton Simpson and Nadir Hamid Soofi. That pair drove to Dallas from their home in Arizona, armed themselves with rifles and handguns, leaped from their vehicle at a Draw the Prophet Mohammad event in Garland and attacked police officers manning a barricade. A four-man SWAT team shot the pair to death; no officers were killed.  
The affidavit paints Hendricks as an enabler, willing to link together like-minded domestic terrorists while staying away from the action. His goals include setting up a training camp and offering his home as a hideout, while staying away from the Texas attack because, he allegedly stated, "I never fly."

Hendricks claimed to the undercover agent that he was in communication with ISIS leadership, the affidavit says. Hendricks didn't know that the FBI had him under surveillance by one undercover agent and four paid confidential informants.  

The affidavit says that Hendricks set up the contact between the undercover fed and one of the would-be shooters, Simpson, via social media. In April 2015, just before the attack, Simpson and the FBI agent discussed the cartoon contest. "Did u see that link I posted? About Texas?" Simpson wrote the FBI agent, referring to an advertisement for the cartoon contest.

When the agent tried to wheedle more information from Simpson, who used the handle "juba1911," the would-be shooter chastised him for being too obvious. "U know what happened in Paris," he says. "No need to be direct."

The FBI established the identification of juba1911 after the attack in Garland, when the FBI raided the attackers' homes in Arizona and scrutinized their computers.   

The undercover agent left Hendricks with the impression that he'd be going to Texas. "Just me or any other brothers?" the agent asks. Hendricks replies saying he thinks "juba" and another brother are heading to Texas.  The threat seemed real, and the agent (called "undercover employee-1") hit the road:

UCE-1 subsequently traveled to Garland, Texas and was present on or about May 3, 2015, at the event. UCE-1 notified Hendricks that he/she was in the vicinity of the Draw the Prophet Muhammad Contest event in Garland. Hendricks stated, "if you see that pig [meaning the organizer of the event] make your 'voice' heard against her."  

Hendricks then asked specific questions about event security, asking "Do you see snipers?" and "Do you see feds there?" He asked the undercover agent "what u go with you?" which the FBI interprets as a question about weapons. "Tools of the trade," the agent responds.

Hendricks responds, "LOL" and suggests the people "doing the drawing and hosting and observing are the ones needed to protest against."

While he was texting Hendricks from the event, the shooters were driving up to the Curtis Culwell Event Center, armed to the teeth and wearing body armor. Their attack was short-lived and ineffective. They wounded one officer before being shot down.  

After the shooting, the affidavit describes how Hendricks thought the agent had been killed as well, and then offers him a place to hide when he reaches out. "Cops almost shot me," the agent claims. Hendricks never admits involvement, but consoles the supposed jihadi. "Next time you will be twice as better," he wrote. "If you need a safe house, let me know."

Hendricks is charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. If convicted,  he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.  

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joe Pappalardo is the former editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Joe Pappalardo

Latest Stories