A man was arrested Friday on suspicion of plotting terrorism intended to cause mass casualties, including a potential attack at a Huntington Beach rally Saturday, authorities said.
The FBI said former Army infantryman Mark Steven Domingo, 26, of Reseda was arrested after he accepted what he thought was a live bomb from an undercover FBI agent posing as a bomb maker.
Domingo was charged Saturday with attempting to provide material support to terrorists.
FBI investigators said Domingo revealed in online posts and conversations that he supported violent jihad and wanted to seek retribution for recent attacks against Muslims, according to an affidavit that accompanied the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office, which was unsealed Monday.
Authorities allege Domingo plotted to detonate an improvised explosive device at a rally scheduled in Long Beach this past weekend. When it looked like the rally might be canceled, court documents allege, Domingo considered targeting a Huntington Beach event instead.
In a statement, Domingo’s family expressed shock at the accusations against him but declined to comment further.
The Long Beach rally at Bluff Park was organized by a group called United Patriot National Front. The group created a Facebook event called “Freedom’s Safest Place,” describing the rally as supporting freedom and free speech, according to the Long Beach Post. However, local activists called the event a white nationalist rally and said UPNF has ties to far-right groups, according to the Post.
A group called What You Can Do Now organized a rally in Huntington Beach on Saturday to protest California’s “sanctuary state” law that gives expanded protections to undocumented immigrants. Protesters congregated at Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway, with counter-protesters gathering across the street.
On April 23, Domingo met with an FBI informant and said he was worried the Long Beach rally might be canceled. He proposed the Huntington Beach rally as an alternative, according to the affidavit.
“Domingo said the Huntington Beach rally would be on the beach, which may make it more difficult to kill as many people because it was a wide open space,” the affidavit said. Domingo ultimately didn’t further the plot aimed at Huntington Beach, according to court documents.
On Friday, Domingo met with an undercover FBI source and undercover agent to scout the location of the Long Beach rally. Domingo said the plan was to arrive early to the event Sunday morning and pose as counter-protesters, according to court documents.
The FBI agent delivered to Domingo what the suspect thought were IEDs and showed him how to operate them, the affidavit said. The devices were not functional explosives.
According to the affidavit, Domingo said that if he and his accomplices survived the planned attack, he wanted to attack the Port of Long Beach and a train.
The planned rally at Bluff Park did not go ahead, as United Patriot National Front didn’t show up.
Law enforcement officials said they didn’t warn organizers of either rally because Domingo was captured Friday and investigators didn’t believe he had any co-conspirators.
“This investigation successfully disrupted a very real threat posed by a trained combat soldier who repeatedly stated he wanted to cause the maximum number of casualties,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. “Protecting Americans from terror attacks is the No. 1 priority of the Justice Department, and anyone who plots to use a weapon of mass destruction will be held to account.”
If convicted of the charge of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, Domingo could face up to 15 years in federal prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Domingo had been assigned to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and served in Afghanistan from September 2012 to January 2013. Authorities said he left the armed forces shortly afterward. A Department of Defense representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Daily Pilot staff writer Priscella Vega and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.