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'America needs another Vegas:' How hateful comments online turned into L.A. terrorism plot investigation

'America needs another Vegas:' How hateful comments online turned into L.A. terrorism plot investigation
New Zealand police respond to the mosque attack in March. (AP)

It started in early March when the FBI detected disturbing online postings from a Reseda man. He would eventually vow revenge for the New Zealand mosque attack.

It ended last Friday, when Mark Steven Domingo, 26, an Army veteran, was arrested and later charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

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Here is a timeline of the dramatic investigation, based on court records filed Monday by federal prosecutors.

FBI detects online hateful writings

♦ Federal authorities started the investigation after seeing his extremist comments online. He began posting comments March 3.

Prosecutors said Domingo sought retribution for the attacks on New Zealand mosques and said he was willing to become a martyr.

“There must be retribution,” he said in an online post, according to the federal criminal complaint. He also allegedly expressed allegiance to Islamic State.

“America needs another vegas event …[to] give them a taste of the terror they gladly spread all over the world,” Domingo allegedly wrote in reference to the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest festival in October 2017.

Informant makes contact

♦ The FBI then had an informant make contact with him of March 16.

The idea was to draw him out and get more information about his plot and whether he had collaborators.

Officials did not identify the source. But documents show the informant has worked for the FBI before and has earned more than $304,000 since 2013.

Santa Monica Pier, which the suspect considered targeting.
Santa Monica Pier, which the suspect considered targeting. (Los Angeles Times)

A fateful drive

♦ During a drive on March 18, Domingo pointed out possible targets, including “police cars, churches and a National Guard Armory” to the person he believed to be his co-conspirator, FBI Special Agent Tasha Coolidge wrote in court papers.

The veteran said he didn’t plan on getting away: “Martyrdom, bro.”

Domingo talked about using guns to conduct an attack, but the confidential informant suggested he knew someone who could make improvised explosive devices. “That is even better,” Domingo said, according to court records.

In a subsequent meeting, Domingo used the Arabic word for “nonbelievers” and said they were to blame for starting it, but “I am gonna finish it.”

“Murder me. Kill me. I’ll die Shadid,” he declared, according to the affidavit. The Arabic word means “strong or powerful, and brave.”

Court records went on to detail an April 3 meeting, in which Domingo proposed killing police officers and military service personnel in Los Angeles. He said he wanted a large-scale attack, something like “an IED here, on the freeway.”

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“Make ’em bleed, like in Ramadi,” he said, referencing the bloody battleground city in the Iraq war. Domingo said the attack would be revenge for “our brothers in Christchurch and our sisters who were slaughtered,” the documents read.

Long Beach, another alleged target of the suspect.
Long Beach, another alleged target of the suspect. (Los Angeles Times)

Threats escalate

♦ On April 19, the Army veteran’s talk escalated, and he arrived at a meeting wearing camouflage pants and holding a backpack with an AK-47-style rifle, according to the affidavit. He said he was prepared to commit “jihad.”

After talk about a drive-by shooting using the assault rifle, officials said he ended up planning to target rallies in Long Beach and Huntington Beach. Worried those events might be canceled, he also considered blowing up the Santa Monica Pier as it would be “crowded,” documents show.

When the informant told Domingo the Long Beach rally would happen, he proceeded with a plan to plant IEDs there, according to the affidavit. At that point, an undercover investigator joined the supposed plot as a bomb-maker.

‘Bombs’ delivered

♦ On Friday, the informant and undercover investigator gave Domingo what he thought were active bombs, and they drove to Bluff Park to scope out the location for the attack. Domingo said if he survived the bombing, he also planned to attack the Port of Long Beach to disrupt the U.S. economy, records show.

Friday night, after the trio left the park and Domingo carried the IEDs to his car, FBI agents arrested him.

Domingo was set to appear in federal court Monday.

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