Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., (right) 25, from Columbia, Missouri, was taken into custody on Friday after meeting up with undercover FBI agents posing as terrorists who he’d been speaking to for months. They began watching him in August 2016 after being tipped off to social media accounts in which he described his hatred of the US and how he’d converted to Islam.
He had allegedly agreed to supply weapons and help organize a Presidents’ Day terror attack at bus and train stations across Kansas City. Hester, who has two young children, told them how he wanted to ‘overthrow’ the US and ‘hit it hard’, the Justice Department said.
Police say that for months he exchanged text messages with agents describing how he wanted to start ‘global jihad’ and put together an attack ’10 times’ as deadly as the Boston marathon bombings. On one occasion he had one of the agents round to his family home in Columbia, Missouri, where he gave him a bag full of materials to build a bomb, authorities said.
They also showed him rifles in the backs of their cars which they said they were planning to use in the attacks. He was arrested on Friday afternoon after months of interaction with the undercover agents who said they honed in on him after being alerted to his Facebook posts by an informant.
‘First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States,’ said U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickson. ‘He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims.
Under four different Facebook names, he is said to have described his hatred of the US and how it should be ‘overthrown.’ Agents say the former soldier, who spent a year in the armed services before being discharged had already added the FBI agent on Facebook. When he was released from jail, the pair began communicating over the site’s messaging service and in encrypted text messages.
‘Hester presented himself as a security threat, stating, for example, that the U.S. government should be “overthrown,” and suggesting “hitting” the government “hard,” while noting that it would not be “a one man job,”‘ a Justice Department release about his arrest said.
‘Hester identified categories of potential targets for attack and said he wanted a “global jihad.” Hester stated that he was trying to find like-minded people to help. When the undercover employee mentioned “brothers,” Hester said he wanted to meet them.’
In January, the undercover agent claims to have told him to buy 9-volt batteries, duct tape, copper wire and roofing nails to make a bomb. He also asked him to buy ammunition but the veteran said he would not be able to because of his criminal record.
The FBI agent told him of his plans to kill ‘a lot of people’ at a Kansas City Presidents’ Day attack. According to the Justice Department, the agent told Hester he didn’t have to take part but he allegedly responded: ‘I’m down’. Later, he told him he ‘couldn’t wait’ for the attack and that it was ‘time they pay for their atrocities’.
On February 17, he brought two more boxes of roofing nails to a meeting with the FBI agent at a storage facility. He was arrested moments later.
In social media posts, the father-of-two uploaded photographs of his gun and described being a ‘true Muslim’. He condemned the FBI, telling it to ‘burn in hell’, and described himself as a ‘soldier of Allah’.
‘Three things I will fight for Allah Islam and my family everything else is irrelevant,’ he said in one post last year.