Bernardino Bolatate, the Boholano who has been accused of planning a mass shooting at an Islamic Center in Florida, had enough firepower to carry out his alleged plot, said an official of the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office (JSO).
“Investigation confirmed that the suspect was making plans to carry out a mass shooting and that he already had the necessary weaponry to complete the attack,” said Sheriff Mike Williams of the JSO.
Authorities, however, did not specify what weapons were available to Bolatete which he could have used to attack the Islamic Center along St. Johns Bluff Road in Northeasrern Florida.
Bolatete, a green card holder is native of Tagbilaran City and was an insurance executive at a Metro Manila firm before migrating to the United States.
According to Williams, Bolatete who is now under the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) expressed an anti-Islamic sentiment through conversations with an undercover detective.
“Multiple covert recordings of the undercover detective and the suspect, affirmed his intentions to conduct the mass shooting at the Islamic Center,” Williams said.
The joint investigation on Bolatete started in Late October after police received a tip from a confidential source on the suspect’s plans.
“We were able to introduce a JSO undercover detective who was able to interact with the suspect and confirm the information that we received from the confidential source,” Williams added.
“We first set up proactive protection plan to assure that the suspect’s plan could not be operationalized yet at the Islamic Center.”
The undercover policeman reportedly befriended Bolatete and was able to record some of his statements on his hatred for Muslims.
“Because, uh, I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know? They are the ones who are always doing these shootings, the killings,” Bolatete said, as noted in the criminal complaint filed against him by the FBI.
According to the complaint, Bolatete also told the undercover cop that he got shot by a drunk police officer in the Philippines. Bolatete reportedly retaliated by shooting back and killing the policeman.
The purported incident has not yet been confirmed by authorities.
On Saturday, December 1 (Philippine time), Bolatete was arrested by the JSO SWAT team, over a month after investigations started, in a sting operation wherein he allegedly received a gun silencer, a violation of the National Firearms Act.
Prior to the arrest, the suspect had reportedly expressed intent to buy the said gun accessory during the course of his interaction with the undercover detective.
According to Special Agent-in-charge Charles Spencer of the FBI’s Jacksonville Division, Bolatete is facing a federal charge under the National Firearms Act for receiving and possessing a silencer not registered to him.
“The charges and details of this investigation are outlined in a complaint that was filed by FBI agents to the US Attorney’s Office,” Spencer said. “Investigation is ongoing and there may be more charges.”