ASHEVILLE, NC (WSVN) — A North Carolina man accused of supporting ISIS will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Fox 46 reports that 21-year-old Justin Sullivan was sentenced to life imprisonment Tuesday in federal court for planning a mass murder in support of the Islamic State.
Investigators said Sullivan, who was still a teenager at the time of his arrest, planned to buy an assault rifle from a local gun show and use it to gun down at least 1,000 people during a concert.
Court documents said that, starting in 2014, Sullivan started downloading violent ISIS attack videos, such as beheadings, and saved them on his laptop. He openly expressed support for the terrorist group in his home, and began destroying his parents’ religious items.
Sullivan’s father Rich is a retired Marine. When he noticed his son was acting suspiciously, he tipped off investigators.
The Department of Justice said Sullivan was communicating with an undercover agent, telling him he planned “minor assassinations to get ready for the major attack.”
According to Fox 46, the DOJ believes Sullivan went through at least one of those killings. Investigators suspect that Sullivan murdered his 74-year-old neighbor, John Clark, and buried him in a shallow grave. Sullivan will later stand trial for the murder charge, and could face the death penalty.
Through social media, Sullivan told the undercover agent that he thought it was better to stay in the United States to support ISIS, rather than traveling abroad.
When he ordered a silencer for the rifle he planned to buy, his mother opened the package. After his parents questioned him about the silencer, Sullivan told the undercover agent that he would pay to have them killed, believing they would interfere with his attack plans.
Officers arrested Sullivan the day before he was to attend the gun show.
When asked if he could forgive his son, Rich Sullivan told Fox 46, “I can’t forgive him.”
“Identifying a terrorist before an attack happens is one of the most difficult tasks we face in the FBI. We compare it to finding a needle in a stack of needles. But that is exactly what we did to stop Justin Sullivan from carrying out his murderous plot in the name of ISIL. It took an incredible level of cooperation and collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Today’s life in prison sentence is the result of the hard work of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force working around the clock to protect this country from those who seek to do us harm,” said Special Agent in Charge Strong.
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