(Courtroom sketch by William Hennessy)
WASHINGTON - A Metro Transit Police officer has been arrested and is facing charges of attempting to provide material support to ISIS.
Nicholas Young, 36, was taken into custody Wednesday morning. Young had been employed as a police officer with the Metro Transit Police Department since 2003. He is the first law enforcement officer in the United States facing terrorism-related charges.
According to an 18-page affidavit filed by the FBI, Young had first been interviewed in September 2010 after an acquaintance, Zachary Chesser, pleaded guilty to issuing threats to the makers of the cartoon television show "South Park" and for trying to join the militant group al-Shabab. Young had been under surveillance for years since then.
Since 2010, officials say Young had numerous recorded interactions with undercover law enforcement officers regarding his knowledge or interest of terrorist-related activity.
In January 2011, the FBI learned Young had met several times with Amine El Khalifi, a man serving 30 years in prison after being charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his attempt to detonate himself in the U.S. Capitol building.
The affidavit also says Young traveled to Libya twice in 2010 to meet with rebels attempting to overthrow the Muammar Gaddafi regime and that he traveled with military-style items.
In July, Young is accused of sending an undercover FBI informant a series of gift card codes worth $245 that were intended to be used for mobile messaging accounts ISIS uses in recruiting.
He also allegedly stockpiled weapons and threatened to find the FBI agent who had come to interview him and his family to kidnap and torture her.
Young faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
"Since I received my first briefing on this matter, Chief Pavlik and I have worked hand-in-glove with the FBI in the interest of public safety and to ensure that this individual would be brought to just," said General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld in a statement. "Metro Transit Police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation up to and including today’s arrest. Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform."
Young appeared in court Wednesday afternoon in handcuffs wearing his work uniform pants and a t-shirt. He told the judge he need a lawyer and said nothing further. The hearing was over within minutes and he is expected back in court for a status hearing on Thursday.
A woman sitting in the courtroom burst into tears when she saw the 36-year-old man led out out of a holding cell by U.S. Marshals. She declined to give her name or say how she was related or associated with Young.
The FBI and Fairfax Police searched Young's home in Fairfax on Wednesday afternoon, many of them wearing masks to conceal their identity.
The Metro Transit Police Department is continuing to work with the FBI Washington Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force on the case.