For the first time in U.S. history, an American law enforcement officer was arrested for attempting to provide financial and material support to the Islamic State. Arrested on Wednesday, the Metro Transit police officer had been under FBI investigation since 2010 and was immediately fired from the department.
Joining the Metro Transit Police Department in 2003, Nicholas Young was first questioned by the FBI seven years later due to his connection to an American terrorist named Zachary Chesser. On September 12, 2010, Young told FBI investigators that he was shocked by the charges against Chesser and claimed to have no knowledge of Chesser’s illegal activities.
A month later, Chesser pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and issuing threats to South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker for depicting Muhammad in an episode. Chesser was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.
Beginning in 2011, several undercover officers and a confidential informant interacted with Young and recorded multiple conversations in which Young threatened to decapitate his enemies, expose informants, and kidnap and torture a female FBI agent who had recently questioned Young’s family and coworkers. According to the indictment, Young also openly discussed attacking an FBI establishment and smuggling weapons into a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Throughout 2011, Young and an undercover officer repeatedly met with Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan terrorist who attempted to blow up the U.S. Capitol Building in 2012. Failing his suicide mission, El Khalifi was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
During an FBI interview on September 10, 2011, Young claimed that he had traveled to Libya twice in 2011 to help rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. According to baggage searches conducted by Customs and Border Protection, Young had traveled to Libya with body armor, a Kevlar helmet, and several other military-style items.
In 2014, Young encouraged a confidential informant to travel to Syria in an attempt to join the Islamic State. After handing over his email account to the FBI, the confidential informant was able to convince Young that he had flown overseas and successfully joined ISIS, when in fact the informant had never left the country.
A few days after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, Young sent an email to the informant, writing, “Not sure if you got the news there yet…A couple brothers…were named in an assault on a french newspaper…Hopefully now people understand there are some lines you don’t cross.”
After asking the informant to advise him on how to send money to his ISIS commanders, Young began purchasing gift cards for mobile messaging accounts the Islamic State uses in recruiting. On July 28, 2016, Young sent 22 sixteen digit gift card codes to the confidential informant, which were later redeemed by the FBI for $245.
In addition to providing financial support to an FBI informant posing as an Islamic State terrorist, Young was also allegedly caught lying several times to FBI agents regarding the informant’s whereabouts and his motives for traveling abroad. On Wednesday, Young was arrested for attempting to support ISIS and was immediately terminated from the Metro Transit Police Department.
“Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.
According to the FBI, Young admitted to dressing up like “Jihadi John” during a 2014 Halloween party while carrying around a decapitated mannequin in an orange jumpsuit. Young also told investigators that he has dressed up as a Nazi before, collects Nazi memorabilia, and has a tattoo of a German eagle on his neck.
If convicted, Young could face up to 20 years in prison for attempting to support the Islamic State.