A Plano West Senior High School student has been arrested on suspicion of plotting an ISIS-inspired mass shooting at Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre mall, authorities announced Wednesday.
Matin Azizi-Yarand, 17, faces charges of making a terroristic threat and criminal solicitation of capital murder of a Texas peace officer. He was taken into custody at school just before noon Tuesday and transferred Wednesday to the Collin County Detention Center, where he was being held on $3 million bail. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Authorities say Azizi-Yarand planned to carry out the attack in mid-May with other participants. He had sent more than $1,400 to others to buy weapons and tactical gear, they allege, and had written a “Message to America” explaining his reasons for the attack.
The teen discussed his plans online with FBI confidential sources and an undercover employee, mulling over attacks at a school and a Hindu temple before settling on Stonebriar Centre, according to a probable cause affidavit. He allegedly told the sources that he had learned the layout of the mall and had been observing patrons and security there.
During one conversation, he allegedly stated: “I’d actually like to make a cop surrender and drop his gun // Then douse him with gasoline and burn him // record it.”
The case was investigated by Plano and Frisco police and the FBI. It will be prosecuted by the Collin County district attorney’s office.
“We are fortunate that the brave men and women of local and federal law enforcement work around the clock to prevent acts of terrorism and mass shootings,” District Attorney Greg Willis said in a news release. “I’d like to thank the FBI’s North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Frisco and Plano police departments for their efforts in this case and their vigilance in protecting the citizens of Collin County.”
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Texas explained that the case would be prosecuted at the state level, not federal, because Azizi-Yarand is considered a juvenile under federal law but an adult in the Texas court system.
U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown said the seriousness of the plot merited ensuring the teen is prosecuted as an adult.
His office plans to appoint one of its attorneys to help prosecute the case in state court.
The attack was being planned to happen during Ramadan to limit the number of Muslim casualties, the teen allegedly told one of the sources. Ramadan is Islam’s holiest month and includes prayers, fasting from dawn to dusk and nightly feasts. This year’s observance begins May 15.
The teen stated that his plan was to cause financial damage, “setting stores on fire // gasoline // match // we won’t suffocate to death lol we can shoot open weapons,” according to the affidavit.
There was also talk of taking hostages, authorities allege. “We can be even more careful if you’d like and take hostages and assess which ones we can kill letting go the elderly and the children,” he reportedly messaged one of the sources.