“We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion, we are on our own, my dear, we have organized our own group,” Hamzeh said, according to the criminal complaint, later adding “And we will eliminate everyone,” as he described in detail how he and others would attack the temple.
But the FBI has not charged him with terrorism.
FBI thwarts mass shooting at Milwaukee Masonic Temple,” by John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel, January 26, 2016:
FBI agents have interrupted what federal prosecutors describe as a planned mass shooting with automatic rifles at a Masonic Temple in downtown Milwaukee, it was announced Tuesday.
Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, 23, has been charged with possessing machine guns and a silencer. Despite indications of an attempted act of terrorism, Hanzeh is not charged with any terrorism counts. He appeared in federal court in Milwaukee Tuesday and remains in custody.
“We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion, we are on our own, my dear, we have organized our own group,” Hamzeh said, according to the criminal complaint, later adding “And we will eliminate everyone” as he described in detail how he and others would attack the temple.
Hamzeh was planning to attack the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic, on N. Van Buren St., according to sources familiar with the case. Hamez had scouted out the temple by taking a tour and spoke in detail about how the attack would occur, the complaint said. A woman in the lobby of the temple Tuesday afternoon told a reporter Tuesday that the staff had no comment.
Hamzeh had been under investigation by the FBI since September 2015, using confidential informants close to him, who secretly recorded him, and undercover FBI agents, who arrested him this week.
Hamzeh had originally planned to travel to Jordan to attack Israeli soldiers and civilans in the West Bank, but ditched those plans because of logistical issues and focused his efforts on attacking a target in the U.S., according to the criminal complaint.
He focused on attacking the Mason Temple in Milwaukee with two others, who were actually cooperating with the FBI.
Last week, Hamzeh and the informants went to a local shooting range and practiced firing a handgun. Afterward, they went to the Masonic Center and got a tour of the facility. Later, he spoke with the informants in details about the planned attack, according to the complaint.
During this meeting, which was recorded and subsequently translated from Arabic to English, Hamzeh said they needed three automatic weapons, each with a silencer to launch the attack.
He discussed how the attack would begin: “…one of us will stay at the door at the entrance and lock the door down, he will be at the main door down, two will get to the lift up, they will enter the room, and spray everyone in the room. The one who is standing downstairs will spray anyone he finds. We will shot them, kill them and get out.”
He went on to say the attack could bring global attention.
“I am telling you, if this hit is executed, it will be known all over the world. Sure, all over the world, all the Mujahedeen will be talking and they will be proud of us, what is wrong with you, such operations will increase in America, when they hear about it. The people will be scared and the operations will increase, and there will be problems all over, because more than one problem took place, and this will be the third problem, this will lead to people clashing with each other. This way we will be igniting it. I mean we are marching at the front of the war.”
Of the target, he said: “They are all Masonic; they are playing with the world like a game, man, and we are like asses, we don’t know what is going on, these are the ones who are fighting, these are the ones that needs to be killed, not the Shi’iat, because these are the ones who are against us, these are the ones who are making living for us like hell,” he said. “Thirty is excellent. If I got out, after killing thirty people, I will be happy 100%… 100% happy, because these 30 will terrify the world.”
Hamzeh met with undercover FBI agents on Monday. The undercover agents showed the weapons and a silencer to Hamzeh, told him that the weapons were capable of automatic fire, and explained to him the functioning of the selector switch that allowed the weapons to fire automatically.
Hamzeh agreed to a price and paid it to the undercover agents, who then handed Hamzeh a bag containing two automatic weapons and a silencer. Hamzeh carried the bag to the vehicle in which he had traveled to the meeting, and he placed the bag in the trunk of the vehicle. He then was arrested and has been charged with illegally possessing machine guns.
Acting United States Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad said, “Samy Mohamed Hamzeh devised a detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people. He also said that he wanted this mass shooting to be ‘known the world over’ and to ‘ignite’ broader clashes. It is difficult to calculate the injury and loss of life that was prevented by concerned citizens coming forward and by the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Robert J. Shields said “The arrest of Samy Mohamed Hamzeh is the result of a well-coordinated undercover law enforcement action, at no time was the public’s safety placed in jeopardy. I would like to commend the efforts of the Joint Terrorism Task Force which includes our local and state law enforcement partners in thwarting an attack that could have resulted in significant injury and /or loss of life.”
The Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center, a historic building located on N. Van Buren Street in downtown Milwaukee, hosts weddings, conferences, meetings and other special events.
Masons have long been seen as a reclusive, secretive society, but American Freemasons have become slightly more public in recent years — some believe as a result of declining numbers among the aging fraternal order.
The Wisconsin Scottish Rite, which purchased the building in 1912, has been in the community since 1863.
“The Wisconsin Scottish Rite has been serving the community by supporting cultural values intrinsic to the formation of this country,” the center’s website reads. “They purchased this historical building in 1912 to house these charitable activities, and preserve the culture it represents. Our charitable activities include provision of centers for education and learning, museum of fine art, preservation of historic architecture, and support of the performing arts.”
Some details about Hamzeh’s background began to emerge Monday afternoon.
Hamzeh was fired Tuesday after three weeks on the job as a trainer at 9Round Kickboxing Fitness at the Grand Ave. in downtown Milwaukee, according to lead Rebecca Marschner.
Marschner said he told the club he he said he had cone to the U.S. from Palestine when he was 17 and said that he lived with his parents in Milwaukee.
“He always got worked up about how terrible our government was,” she said. “He talked about how he’d seen murder in Palestine. He didn’t like that the U.S. supported Israel.”
His political views came up once in a while, she said, but the overriding concern that led to his dismissal was customers found him too intense with the club’s workouts.