PHOENIX (AP) — Calling him “off-the-charts dangerous,” authorities outlined the evidence Tuesday against a Phoenix man who they say helped orchestrate a shootout on an anti-Islam event in Texas and had aspirations to join the Islamic State terrorist organization and attack the Super Bowl.
Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 43, was arrested last week on charges related to the shootout at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that led to the deaths of two roommates from Phoenix. An indictment filed in federal court in Phoenix says Kareem hosted the gunmen in his home beginning in January and provided the guns they used in the May 3 shooting in Garland, Texas.
At a hearing in federal court, FBI special agent Dina McCarthy described how a witness and a confidential informant learned about Kareem’s interest in Islamic State, including watching the group’s videos with Texas shooters Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi. McCarthy said a 2012 investigation into Kareem determined he had a terrorism training document on his computer and an al-Qaida magazine on a flash drive. She said he wanted to attack the Super Bowl when it was in Arizona this year, but provided no specifics about how serious he was.
The magistrate denied bail for Kareem, who is charged with conspiracy, making false statements and interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a felony.
“This is an individual who is apt to incite violence,” prosecutor Kristen Brook said. “This defendant, based on all these facts, is dangerous, he is off-the-charts dangerous.”
Defense lawyer Daniel Maynard called it a trumped-up case based largely on an unreliable confidential informant charged with kidnapping and sex trafficking.
“This is your typical jailhouse snitch,” Maynard said, adding there’s no proof Abdul Kareem purchased any of the guns used in the Texas shooting.
Soofi and Simpson were roommates in Phoenix and drove to Texas to attack the event featuring cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims. They were killed by police after they drove up and opened fire outside the contest at a conference center, injuring a security guard. No one attending the event in suburban Dallas was hurt. Kareem attended the same Phoenix mosque where Soofi and Simpson occasionally prayed.
Kareem practiced shooting with Simpson, Soofi and others in the remote desert outside Phoenix between January and May, the indictment said.
Court records in Phoenix show Kareem had a criminal record, struggled with substance abuse and had difficulty finding steady employment.
He has two aggravated drunken driving convictions in Arizona, including a 1998 case where he was found passed out with a beer bottle between his legs behind the wheel of a vehicle that was still running. He was also charged in 1997 with aggravated assault after a woman told police that Kareem had pointed a gun in her direction. Kareem maintained that he didn’t point the weapon at anyone and instead had taken the gun away from his brother during an argument.
After a second DUI arrest, probation officials say Kareem was generally cooperative but had continued to drive while drunk and struggle with substance abuse. He was sentenced to four months in jail.
He was born and raised in Philadelphia as Decarus Lowell Thomas and changed his name to Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem in 2013.
Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, said Kareem attended the mosque for at least four years, and, at times, volunteered to clean the carpets. On at least one occasion, Simpson helped him with the carpets, he said.
Shami said he has not seen Kareem at the mosque in the last six to eight months, and he first learned about Kareem’s possible involvement in the plot when FBI agents showed him 15 to 20 photos of different people.
“They had a lot of photos. They asked not only me, but other people if they have seen him,” Shami said. “The FBI is going to do their jobs and they are going to follow their leads and whatever they find we are going to cooperate with them.”
The FBI arrested Kareem on June 11.
Hours before the shooting, the bureau warned local authorities that Simpson, who had a prior terrorism-related conviction, might go to the event, but police said they didn’t see the bulletin in time.
Neither the FBI nor Garland police said they anticipated that either suspect would target the contest, whose depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are considered blasphemous by Muslims. Such drawings have sparked violence around the world.
The FBI has said Simpson and Soofi were armed with three pistols, three assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York.
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