On Friday, the lunch break at the Greece Odyssey Academy, a grade 6 to 12 school in a suburb of Rochester, New York, was under way when a comment from a student triggered alarm bells.
A press conference held on Tuesday by local law enforcement. A 16-year-old unnamed boy approached a group of classmates for an hour over an hour and waved a photo on his cell phone. The picture was from another student from the Odyssey Academy.
"He looks like the next shooter, right?" Said the 16-year-old, according to Greek police chief Patrick Phelan.
For future high school students In the midst of regular television recordings of blood-clad classrooms and ruthlessly bored with the mantra "See something say something" from adults, the statement caused concern. One student told the security and an investigation was initiated against the 16-year-old, who showed the picture and the boy pictured.
Investigators, however, did not reveal any potential Parkland-style shootings.
Phelan told reporters on Tuesday that the investigators were quickly led into a plan to set up a group of young men to attack a Muslim settlement called Islamberg, located three hours away in rural Delaware County, New York State. The police seized dozens of firearms from the men and three improvised explosive devices.
Vincent Vetromile, 19, Andrew Crysel, 18, and Brian Colaneri, 20, are in custody and are charged with a first-instance criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy in the fourth degree. An unnamed 16-year-old student from the Odyssey Academy, who disturbed classmates by commenting on the shooter at school, was also arrested in connection with the case. He was not identified because of his age. The boy identified in the photo is not associated with the alleged conspiracy.
"If they had carried out this conspiracy that would have hinted at any, people would have died," Phelan told reporters. "The boy, who initially said something to an adult, saved people's lives."
The authorities did not explain the relationship between the four men, but Phelan revealed that three of the four men had been together with the Boy Scouts of America. Two received the rank of Eagle Scout, the organization's highest honor.
The men have yet to get into the application.
Islamberg, nestled in the remote western foothills of the Catskill Mountains, was the target of both hyperventilating rightwing conspiracy theories and violent conspiracies in the past.
The community was launched in the eighties by a group of followers of Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarik Gilani, the Associated Press reported in 2017. Trying to break away from the congestion crime in New York City, families in the resettled rural area. Today, around 200 people live in the site, run by the Muslims of America, a US-based Islamic faith group that operates Muslim communities throughout North America.
The community, however, has not stayed away from the radar. Alex Jones Conspiracy Website Infowars has routinely suggested that Islamberg is a violent jihad training camp, and the branch sent two correspondents to "investigate" the allegations in 2015.
In March, authorities arrested a Tennessee man named Robert Doggart's Islamophobic attack on the site. He was sentenced in 2017 on charges of violating civil rights and calling for arson of a building and sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.
The residents of Islamberg, however, say that they reject all violent forms of Islam.
"It's a lot of nonsense," said Hussein Adams, chief executive of the Muslims of America, to the AP in 2017. "For over 30 years, have we been training for this jihad?" Why did not this jihad take place?
The local law enforcement agencies have also rejected the allegations.
"These people who live here are American citizens. They have been living here for over 30 years. They built this community. They have connections within this community, outside the community, "said James Barnes, the New York State police, to the AP. "And there is no problem here."
On Tuesday, the authorities did not tell reporters why the four allegedly selected Islamberg as a target.
According to Phelan, the complaint about the 16-year existence was made -old's comment, investigators interviewed the student as well as the student on the cell phone image, who was later released. The 16-year-old, who made the comment first, however, became the focus of the investigation. Phelan said these interviews led the police to the three other suspects.
As part of the investigation, five search warrants were executed. The confiscated guns were rifles and shotguns, Phelan said.
"They had access to these weapons," he added. "Some of them were those of her father, some were those of her grandfather, some of whom I believe have bought themselves."
All three explosive devices were found at the 16-year-old house. Citing court documents, the Rochester Democrat and the Chronicle reported that a device was a large cylinder, one medium-sized and the third a jar. All three contained gunpowder, BBs and nails.
The devices "were homemade bombs," Phelan told reporters. "They are being examined at the FBI lab in Quantico."
As part of the search, the authorities also confiscated several mobile phones and computers. "I would say we saw material that was disturbing and suspicious," Phelan said.
The men reportedly communicated on Discord, a smartphone chat app preferred by gamblers and popular with hate groups. The discord has since aggressively worked to remove hate speech from its platform, the Washington Post reported last year.
On Tuesday, the authorities added that they were working with federal law enforcement agencies to see if additional charges could be brought against the men. Phelan also did not rule out the possibility that the conspiracy contained more than the four people now in detention.
"Further investigation has revealed that more people were involved," he said.
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