MCKINNEY (CBSDFW.COM) – Authorities have arrested a 17-year-old high school student who was allegedly planning a mass shooting at a Texas shopping mall. Matin Azizi-Yarand was taken into custody on Tuesday and charged with terrorism for plotting an attack at the Stonebriar Centre in Frisco. The shooting was allegedly set to happen sometime in May.
Azizi-Yarand is said to have spent $1,400 on weapons and tactical gear for his attack.
Law enforcement officials obtained the Plano West Senior High School student’s “manifesto” in which he allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Authorities said that Azizi-Yarand was also trying to solicit others into joining him on the mass shooting spree, though affidavits suggest that he wanted to be a “lone wolf.”
“The FBI is not aware of any additional threats associated with this arrest,” explained FBI special agent Eric K. Jackson. “The American people can take comfort in knowing that we continue to work diligently to protect and defend the United States and to ensure the safety of the communities we serve.”
According to an affidavit, the case began in December 2017 when Azizi-Yarand started communicating with an FBI source in a mobile messaging app. It is here that Azizi-Yarand allegedly expressed his desire to commit an attack, adding that he had been reading ISIS guides for “performing operations and making bombs.”
Azizi-Yarand had reportedly also been reviewing a guide to making pipe bombs which was authored by Eric Harris, one of the attackers in the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.
“This case exemplifies the wide reach terrorist groups have through social media and other means,” said Chief Gregory Rushin of the Plano Police Department, “to radicalize others in communities across our country.”
In his earliest conversations with the FBI’s source, Azizi-Yarand allegedly said, “It is not about how many kills, but how much money you will make these countries spend in security just for a simple attack… although having a high number will get their attention.”
“I want to put America in the state that Europe is in, which is having to have soldiers deployed in streets,” Azizi-Yarand added, according to an affidavit. “Something that will cost them a lot financially too.”
“We are fortunate that the brave men and women of local and federal law enforcement work around the clock to prevent acts of terrorism and mass shootings,” said Collin County district attorney Greg Willis.
In multiple conversations with the FBI’s source, Azizi-Yarand allegedly said that he hoped to travel to Pakistan, and then cross the border into Afghanistan in order to officially join ISIS. He also allegedly said that he would use the mobile messaging app to find others who could help him with an attack.
Azizi-Yarand invited the FBI source to Dallas late last year. “There is a Hindu temple I want to shoot up,” the suspect allegedly said, asking for help. “Get some crappy car and ditch it somewhere. Police response time here is really slow.” He said that he was waiting until he obtained a “proper gun” to commit that shooting.
The suspect then began speaking with an undercover FBI agent in January 2018. Azizi-Yarand allegedly told the agent and the FBI source that he had two other men who were “serious about this,” but he was waiting until he turned 18 years old so that he could buy guns. Azizi-Yarand’s birthday is in November.
In later conversations, the teenager tried to get the FBI source to purchase guns for the attack, with Azizi-Yarand funneling money to him through prepaid cards sent to a post office box.
Azizi-Yarand was said to be in contact with an ISIS member, who told him, “guns are simple, just open fire” when the suspect expressed concern about being untrained. “How hard can it be to spray down a big crowd of people? Las Vegas the dude was just blind firing. And got 100.”
When looking into potential targets, Azizi-Yarand allegedly also considered a school. “School is a perfect place for an attack. Crowded and close quarters,” he said. “Even a blind man could take 10 easily. Just fire where you hear screams.”
However, the Stonebriar Centre appears to have been picked as the target in March. Azizi-Yarand allegedly told the FBI source that he had been observing the layout of the building, the number of security officers there, and the regular movements of the shopping mall’s patrons. He allegedly also planned to set some stores on fire.
“I’d actually like to make a cop surrender and drop his gun,” Azizi-Yarand allegedly said to the FBI source. “Then, douse him with gasoline and burn him. Record it.”
Azizi-Yarand met the FBI source in person last month. They connected at the source’s hotel and walked less than a mile to the Stonebriar Centre. There, they observed security officers and patrons together, and discussed the need for more weapons so that nobody would “try and take us on.” They planned to kill the mall’s police officers first.
In a conversation with the undercover FBI agent last month, Azizi-Yarand allegedly listed his goal for the mall attack.
- Message gets across to the kuffar (Arabic for “disbelievers”).
- Inspires others.
- We followed what Allah commanded us and filled them with fear.
- We let others know that we were among those who will not accept weakness or humiliation.
Azizi-Yarand’s alleged “manifesto” discussed the goals in further detail. “This is a message for America and any other country that is fighting Islam and slaughtering the Muslims with their fighter jets and other such weaponry,” the document said. “You have brought this upon yourself America, you take the people’s taxes and use it to finance your war against the Muslims. We will continue these attacks until you relent you airstrikes on us.”
“Before you call us evil people, look yourselves,” the document continued. “You have started this war with us. It will never end. We target your people as revenge for ours who were slaughtered.”
If he is convicted, Azizi-Yarand could face up to life in prison for criminal solicitation and up to 10 years in prison for making a terroristic threat. His bond has been set at a total of $3 million.
Chief John Bruce of the Frisco Police Department added, “The facts of this case, though alarming, serve as an example of the power of cooperation and the importance of each individual remaining vigilant in the spirit of see ‘something, say something.’ I would like to thank all the local and federal partners who worked on this case.”
CBS11 talked to retired ATF agent Hector Tarango about Wednesday’s arrest.
He said the investigation appears to be thorough and lengthy. He said it started in December 2017.
He believes law enforcement was trying to see if they could potentially get other suspects.
Azizi’s grandmother and uncle told CBS11, they were physically rattled to learn of his arrest. They describe him as “quiet” and “calm” and say he never got in any trouble.
Just last week, they say he was helping his grandmother move heavy items.
His uncle said, “He’s not that kind of person… He’s a good kid. He’s not a terrorist.”
He mentioned his nephew is even afraid of the family’s two cats, asking how someone like that could try to kill anyone.