Religious leaders, politicians express gratitude to law enforcement for thwarting terror plots

Holland man is charged with planning attack on synagogue; Toledo woman allegedly wanted to attack a city bar

Religious leaders, politicians express gratitude to law enforcement for thwarting terror plots
In separate cases, the FBI announced the arrests of Elizabeth Lecron, 23, of Toledo, and Damon Joseph, 21, of Holland, for alleged domestic terrorism plots. (Source: SOURCE: Lucas County jail)

TOLEDO (WTOL) - Outpourings of gratitude to law enforcement were expressed on Monday, after it was learned that a planned attack on the Toledo Jewish community had been thwarted, as was a separate possible mass-casualty event at a local bar.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Damon M. Joseph, 21, of Holland, was arrested and charged in federal court after planning an attack on a synagogue near Toledo.

In a separate case, Elizabeth Lecron, 23, of Toledo, was charged with one count of transportation of explosives and explosive material for the purposes of harming others and property after she purchased black powder and screws that she believed were going to be used to make a bomb as part of a terrorist attack on a bar.

Joseph was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Joseph was arrested Friday evening after he was alleged to have taken possession of two AR-15 rifles.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo issued a statement earlier thanking the FBI and local law enforcement.

A local imam also says he sympathizes with the Jewish community, noting 80 percent of ISIS’s victims are fellow Muslims.

“I am, I can be a victim, because I am an outspoken person. And I am on their list, top list,” said Imam Talal Eid. “We do not like this. This is not Islam. It’s not like ‘Oh, because our American collegues will be upset.’ It’s not like that.”

Toledo Jewish leaders say situations like these remind them to be vigilant in their safety, but they won’t be intimated from living their lives as Jews.

Eric Dubow, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo, and Sue Ann Hochberg, Jewish Community Relations Council chairwoman, issued a statement Monday expressing this belief.

"Only little more than two months ago the greatest attack upon Jews in this country took place in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue. Anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds has no place in our society," their statement read.

"Keeping people safe is our highest priority. All threats to our community are taken very seriously and we continue to coordinate with law enforcement diligently to keep us safe. Events like this remind us that we must always be vigilant, but we will not be intimidated from living our lives as Jews."

The Anti-Defamation League's Cleveland office also expressed gratitude to law enforcement for thwarting the planned terror attack.

“We are tremendously grateful to federal and local law enforcement for apprehending the suspect, and for working so diligently to prevent our community from experiencing another horrific terrorist attack,” ADL Cleveland Regional Director Jeremy Pappas said.

“The Jewish community is still grieving following the October attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and it’s shocking to hear another attack was being planned.”

The suspect reportedly told an undercover agent regarding the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, “I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually … I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah. They wouldn’t even expect [an attack] in my area…”

"We’d also like to give special thanks to Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and FBI Special Agent Jeff Forunato, for their efforts to prevent another mass shooting at a synagogue,” Pappas said.

Politicians also weighed in on the matter Monday.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz released a statement in response to the FBI’s announcement.

“On behalf of the citizens of Toledo, I would like to thank the FBI, Homeland Security, the Toledo Police Department, and all law enforcement agencies who played a role in helping to prevent a potential catastrophe. We cannot tolerate hate directed toward people of Jewish faith, or of any other religion, and last month’s mass-killing at a Pittsburgh synagogue is a reminder of just how real this threat is. As Hanukkah concludes this evening, all Toledoans should reflect on the holiday’s themes of liberation, identity, and most importantly, freedom from religious persecution.”

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D, Toledo) used the occasion to praise the FBI and urge the stamping out of hate.

“I salute the FBI, the Toledo Police Department and our local law enforcement who fulfilled their sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend Americans from enemies both foreign and domestic,” said Kaptur. “Though some would politicize the FBI’s work, its noble motto of ‘Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity’ was on full display in Ohio today. A grateful region along with all liberty-loving citizens thank these brave men and women for their service in keeping us safe.

“Our community and nation cannot tolerate hate in any form. Hate destroys. It is un-American and indeed our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and association. It imposes no mandated worship and that brilliant idea has helped preserve our Union to date. We must remain dedicated as defenders of liberty and be ever diligent to stamping out hate and bigotry wherever we see it,” Kaptur concluded.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R, Ohio) also said there is no place for hatred in America.

“I’m profoundly grateful for the FBI, the Department of Justice, our U.S. Attorney in Cleveland Justin Herdman, and all of our Ohio law enforcement partners who worked for months to apprehend these suspects and stop these terrorist attacks before they happened," he wrote. "These threats and attacks we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values.

"As I’ve said many times, there is no place for hatred, antisemitism, bigotry, threats, or attacks of any kind on our fellow citizens, and we must all work together to live up to our values of tolerance and respect for others.”

U.S. Rep Bob Latta (R, Bowling Green) commended the actions law enforcement as an effort that "may have saved lives in Toledo."

"The early reports indicate that the planners of these proposed attacks were seeking to kill and injure innocent people. These planned attacks are alarming in their callousness and depravity, and we are thankful for the actions of the FBI, the Toledo Police, and the Northwest Ohio Joint Terrorism Task Force.

“In light of the fact that one of the suspects was targeting local Synagogues, we stand with the Jewish Community in the face of these threats. After the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and other recent anti-Semitic actions, we understand the pain and worry that many in this community are feeling. Anti-Semitism has no place in our country, and we will stand firm in our resolve to prevent hateful attacks. We must stay vigilant.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio) also expressed gratitude for the actions of all law enforcement personnel connected to the cases.

“We’re proud and grateful for our local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cleveland, for their work to prevent these terrible tragedies. We join the Jewish community, and all of northwest Ohio today in standing together against hate and violence of any kind.”

Later Monday evening the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo also made a statement regarding the terrorist plot:

We at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo applaud and thank our law enforcement officers for their diligence in detecting and foiling this sick and disturbing plot to commit a terrorist attack in our hometown. The sort of threat that was thwarted also tries to make us cower before terrorism; however, this is a clear example where we do not cower before murderous plots. We will not give up because we want to live in a world of peace, without hate, where respect and tolerance are the basis of coexistence. 

Copyright 2018 WTOL. All rights reserved.