Image courtesy of Rochester

Terror Arrest Made in Rochester

| published December 31, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

With police and law enforcement worldwide on conditions ranging from watchful to highest-alert, and with some European cities tamping down New Year’s celebrations altogether, official vigilance may have averted disaster in Rochester, New York, where police have arrested a man who allegedly planned to attack a popular restaurant.

Emanuel Lutchman was arrested and charged with terror-related activities. The Justice Deparment said that Lutchman was receiving direction and operational guidance from Islamic State handlers in Syria and Iraq, and that the intended target of his planned New Year’s Eve attack was a crowded restaurant and bar in Rochester.

The complaint filed by prosecutors describes Lucthman as a “self-professed Muslim convert.” In addition to evidence that Lutchman was in regular contact with ISIS militants—including some who may have been providing him guidance for an upcoming attack—media is reporting that Lutchman has a long criminal record dating back a decade. The FBI and the Justice Department became aware of his current plot after a reliable informant provided information regarding Lutchman’s emails and phone conversations with known ISIS members overseas.

According to the FBI, Lutchman began purchasing some of the supplies needed for his attack this week, including a Tuesday trip to a Wal-Mart store near Rochester where he bought a machete, two hunting knives, two black ski masks, zip-ties and duct tape, and ammonia—though it was not immediately clear what sort of attack he had in mind. The Justice Department did not say whether the suspect owned or possessed guns.

A recent study by George Washington University concluded that New York State has the highest number of people suspected and/or charged with activities linked to ISIS. Minnesota has the second highest concentration, and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area is known as a fertile recruiting area for Islamic extremism and ISIS. FBI director James Comey concedes that ISIS has some form of presence in all 50 U.S. states.

New York Mayor Bill Di Blasio and Police Chief William Bratton say that New York City will be safe, thanks largely to a massive police and first responder presence in all popular areas—including Times Square, where tens of thousands are expected to celebrate. Paris, London, New York, and Washington, D.C. all have plans to have huge police and security visibility. Additional police are also being deployed in and around venues where New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day college bowl games and football playoffs games are being held.

Other U.S. cities also plan to ramp up police and state law enforcement visibility in an effort to discourage potential lone wolf attacks.

In Europe, several cities have tamped down plans for big celebrations after numerous credible threats that a New Year’s Eve attack was imminent. City officials in Brussels, Belgium cancelled all outdoor New Year’s events, including its annual NYE fireworks shows, citing concern for public safety and security.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Brussels Cancels New Year’s Celebrations Amidst Terror Concerns; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 30, 2015.

Recent Airstrikes Killed Some Paris Attackers; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 29, 2015.