WASHINGTON – Christopher Lee Cornell, who used the alias "Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah" online, was arrested Wednesday for planning a jihadist plot against the U.S. Capitol and government officials, according to reports. The 20-year-old Green Township, Ohio, man was sympathetic to Islamic State militants and was inspired by late al-Qa'ida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
Cornell planned to set off pipe bombs at the Capitol, then shoot any fleeing employees, court documents showed. He had purchased two M-15s and 600 rounds of ammunition while FBI agents watched. He also made plans to travel to Washington, though he never purchased components to make a pipe bomb, an FBI informant said.
"There was never a danger to the public," an official told NBC news.
Cornell attracted attention from the FBI when he began posting radical messages on Twitter using his alias. He said that al-Awlaki, who was killed by the U.S. in 2011 in Yemen, gave a "thumbs up" to jihadist attacks "before his martyrdom."
"I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything," he allegedly wrote in an online message to an FBI informant in August. "I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves."
Cornell met the FBI informant in October and November, finally revealing his plan during their last meeting. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22, and he is charged with the attempted killing of a U.S. government officer and the possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence.
The suspect's father, John Cornell, told CNN he thought his son "was coerced into a lot of this."
"There is no way he could have carried out any kind of terrorist plot," John Cornell said.
Jake Flick, an acquaintance from Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, said that Cornell was "just your average kid" who began to be more of a "loner" by his senior year.
"He would say the weirdest stuff about the government," Flick recalled to NBC News. "The radical s--- he would say was kind of outrageous."