By Victor Ochieng
A man from Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested by police after being accused of planning to kill Muslims at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. The man’s plans were thwarted after an undercover officer he bought a silencer from exposed him.
Bernandino Bolatete, 69, had plans of executing a mass killing, but someone he shared his plans with tipped the police. According to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, the tip prompted an investigation that started in October, with the involvement of both the police and the FBI.
“The investigation confirmed that the suspect was making plans to carry out a mass shooting, and he already had the weaponry necessary to complete the attack,” Williams said.
The U.S. attorney’s office filed a complaint against Bolatete, a Filipino immigrant. In the filing, a transcript of the conversations Bolatete had with the undercover officer was provided. The details of the transcript indicate that Bolatete had told the officer that he had five rifles, including an AR-15, which he said could easily be converted into an AR-47.
Details reveal that Bolatete had even suggested he would pick a Friday to attack the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida because that’s their “Sunday equivalent to us Christians.”
“Go up to the tower and start shooting, right? It will be great, right?” Bolatete is alleged to have told the undercover detective.
He was ready to die in his mission, saying he wasn’t planning to be caught in the act or to survive it, which probably meant he had suicide plans.
“I’ll … I’ll die there in that area,” Bolatete said in the official transcript. “There’ll be some sort of suicide thing … suicide by police?”
Bolatete is said to have revealed to the officer that the mission against the Islamic Center wasn’t going to be his first time to kill. He revealed to the investigating officer that one day, while he was still in the Philippines, he got into an argument with a cop and the cop shot him, prompting him to return fire and kill the officer.
However, it appears Bolatete gave a totally different picture of himself while at work. One of his former colleagues told Jacksonville’s News 4 that she believed Bolatete was “a sweet old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly.” She also said she never even once heard Bolatete talking negatively about Muslims.
Sheriff Williams said that as soon as the police learned of Bolatete’s plans, they took a step to protect the Islamic Center even as they continued with their investigations. As soon as Bolatete was arrested, the center was informed that the threat against them had been neutralized.