The FBI Says It Stopped An Alleged Terrorist Plot In Long Beach Over The Weekend

Mark Steven Domingo, 26, of Reseda (Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)

A Reseda man is facing federal charges in an alleged terrorist plot that the FBI says it was able to prevent on Friday.

Mark Steven Domingo, 26, a former U.S. Army infantryman who served in combat in Afghanistan, was planning to detonate a bomb at a political rally in Long Beach on Saturday and possibly another rally in Huntington Beach in order to avenge the New Zealand mosque shootings last month, according to a criminal complaint filed Saturday.

Domingo was arrested Friday night, while looking for a place to put the bomb. The device was actually a "dummy" given to him by an undercover officer as part of an FBI terrorism investigation, according to a press release. The investigation was run by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The Long Beach event that Domingo allegedly sought to target was a white nationalist free speech rally at Bluff Park with counter protestors also in attendance.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said that authorities knew for a while that Domingo was planning his attack locally.

"The suspect was interested in the rally and clearly had some plan to cause mass casualties," he told KPCC. "It was very serious. ... We are just very grateful to all of the law enforcement agencies for the arrest and for ensuring that we had a safe event."

LAPD Chief Michael Moore said in a Monday news conference that Domingo also had plans to shoot into a police car and kill officers.

"I can tell you, unequivocally, that this partnership, coupled with our ability to be nimble, ultimately resulted in dozens of innocent lives being saved in Southern California," Moore said.

Domingo came onto the FBI's radar because of violent online posts he put up just days before 50 people were killed during mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, said Ryan Young, the special agent in charge of the FBI task force.

In the posts, Domingo threatened violence and retribution for the New Zealand shooting. He specifically talked about "killing people," expressing support for violent jihad and a willingness to become a martyr, according to the affidavit.

On March 1, he posted a video professing his Muslim faith. A day later, he made another video in which he said, "America needs another Vegas event that would give them a taste of the terror they gladly spread all over the world," referring to the October 2017 mass shooting there. After the attack in New Zealand on March 13, Domingo posted, "There must be retribution."

That was enough of a red flag to alert the FBI, which spent the next two months monitoring him intensely, Moore said. The FBI conducted around-the-clock surveillance of Domingo after they determined that he was a credible threat.

"We covered him 24/7," Young said. "At no time were we in the dark."

According to the affidavit, a confidential FBI source began speaking to Domingo directly, both online and in-person. During the first meeting, Domingo discussed the different targets he was considering for the attack, including Jews, churches and police officers, as well as support for ISIS. During an April 19 meeting, Domingo arrived armed with an AK-47 to show the undercover operative that he was serious.

That's when the FBI uncovered Domingo's ultimate plan, to detonate a bomb at the Long Beach rally. As part of the plot, he asked the undercover source — who was cooperating with the FBI — to find a bomb-maker who could create a weapon that would cause at least 50 casualties.

Last week, the FBI followed Domingo as he purchased several hundred nails to be used as shrapnel inside the explosive. The affidavit states that Domingo specifically bought three-inch nails, "because they would be long enough to penetrate the human body and puncture internal organs."

Domingo then provided the nails to the undercover operative for use in construction of the bomb. Last Thursday, he indicated that he planned to move forward with the attack, according to the affidavit.

The FBI then delivered multiple "dummy" weapons via an undercover operative to Domingo, which he believed were real weapons of mass destruction. Domingo then drove to Long Beach with the fake weapons to scout the area and decide where to put the explosives in order to inflict the most harm.

That's when officials made the arrest, Young said.

Investigators then conducted a search of Domingo's vehicle and home, where they found multiple weapons, including high-capacity magazines and at least one assault rifle.

This news comes in the wake of the shooting at a synagogue in San Diego County, which killed one woman and wounded several others.

"Sometimes, we get asked what keeps us up at night," Young said. "This is a case that keeps us up at night."

He added that his team did not find any co-conspirators and has no information that would suggest that there is still a known or credible threat to Southern California.

"This is a good day for law enforcement," he said.

LAPD Chief Moore praised the FBI and LAPD for their work on this case, but he also urged the community to stay vigilant.

"If you see something, say something," he advised.

Domingo has been in federal custody since his arrest and is expected to make an appearance Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court.

The Army confirmed that Domingo served as an infantryman from November 2011 to February 2013, attaining the rank of private. He was deployed to Afghanistan from September 2012 to February 2013.

Officials are asking anyone with knowledge of the attack or information about Domingo to call the FBI task force hotline at (310) 477-6565.

The ongoing investigation is being lead by the FBI's terrorism task force, which includes officers from LAPD, members of NCIS, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the Long Beach PD.

If convicted of the charge of attempted terrorism, Domingo would face a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Libby Denkmann, Lita Martinez, and Megan Erwin contributed reporting to this story.

UPDATES:

4:23 p.m. : This article was updated with additional details about the attack, as well as a statement from the Long Beach Mayor.

This article was originally published at 1:42 p.m.