An al-Qaida sympathizer who plotted to bomb NYPD patrol cars and postal facilities and envisioned targeting U.S. soldiers returning home from overseas has been arrested, officials said.
Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced the arrest of Jose Pimentel, 27, Sunday evening at City Hall.
Bloomberg said Pimentel, of Washington Heights, was "inspired by al-Qaida propaganda" but not part of any larger group and was not believed to be working with others. He was also "motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," Bloomberg said.
Law enforcement officials had been watching Pimentel, who has also lived in Schenectady, N.Y., since 2009.
Officials said Pimentel had gone from talking about terrorist acts to recently obtaining explosive material to make pipe bombs.
Vance said Pimentel was a reader of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire, and had learned how to make bombs from the publication.
According to the criminal complaint, Pimentel told police in a video statement after his arrest that he had been about one hour away from completing a test bomb when he was arrested Saturday.
"We thought it best to act quickly yesterday and take him into custody," Kelly said.
Defense attorney Joseph Zablocki said at Pimentel's arraignment Sunday that his client's behavior leading up to the arrest was not that of a conspirator trying to conceal some violent scheme.
Zablocki said Pimentel was public about his activities and was not trying to hide anything.
"I don't believe that this case is nearly as strong as the people believe,'' Zablocki said. "He (Pimentel) has this very public online profile. ... This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack.''
At the City Hall news conference, officials showed a video of an explosion from a bomb like the one Pimentel was allegedly making, demonstrating the damage it could have done. The video showed the doors being blown off of a car.
Pimentel allegedly confessed to building bombs and wanting to wage war against the United States, including having aspirations to assassinate politicians and government workers, the complaint said.
Officials said he had recently gone through a divorce and sources said he now lives with his mother. He was unemployed at the time of his arrest and may have suffered from mental health issues.
One example sources pointed to as a sign of his instability was Pimentel's attempt as an adult to circumcise himself. Sources also pointed to his alleged drug use, including marijuana.
His lawyers did not return calls for comment Monday.
The charges include first-degree criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism and fourth-degree conspiracy as a crime of terrorism.
Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, was denied bail and remained in custody.
The bearded, bespectacled man wore a black T-shirt and black drawstring pants and smiled at times during the proceeding. His mother and brother attended the arraignment, Zablocki said.