MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Federal investigators say a Miami man planned to leave a bomb in Dolphin Mall during Black Friday – one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
It’s something that was unsettling to some shoppers at the mall Monday.
“It’s scary, because you would never think that it would hit so close to home. It’s incredible,“ said shopper Evelyn Roberto.
Vicente Solano, accused of planning the weapons of mass destruction attack, faced a judge in federal court Monday in his first appearance since his arrest.
Solano told the judge he has no money, works as a house painter and does not own property. He said all of that in Spanish since he does not speak English. It was not revealed where he is from.
Solano rented a room from an older couple in a neighborhood on 109th Avenue.
One neighbor agreed to talk if we concealed her identity.
“Does this surprise you?” CBS4’s Hank Tester asked her.
“Not really. I mean, like, i never had a good feeling about him. I am surprised he’s named as a terrorist. I thought he was more like a pervert, child pervert,” she said.
The government has asked for no bond and argued he is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
The judge has since set a bond hearing for November 16th at 10 a.m.
Federal agents say he was acting alone and planned to place a pressure cooker or suitcase bomb inside the mall’s food court that would be detonated with a cellphone.
Back in September, the FBI was tipped off by a confidential informant, who was communicating with Solano, about the alleged plot.
Sweetwater police, who have jurisdiction over the Dolphin Mall, were kept in the loop as the investigation continued.
“Anyone who has the mindset to carry out what this individual had in mind is very dangerous and must be taken seriously,“ Sweetwater police Chief Placido Diaz said. “We have seen how one or two people can carry out major attacks.”
According to his criminal complaint, Solano “had become increasingly upset with the policies of the United States Government and its activities throughout the world” and “cited these grievances as motivation for his desire to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States.”
Solano made pro-Islamic State videos showing him in a black mask and shirt while standing in front of a black flag identical to the one used by ISIS, federal agents said.
“I am here because I like the way that ISIS confronts the United States and the countries of the coalition. They’re strong. lt’s a group that is growing in social media. I love that there is going to be a holy war,” said Solano in one of the videos, according to federal investigators.
“That is why I am joining the Islamic group, the holy war in the name of Allah…I am going to plant a bomb like in Boston,” he is reportedly heard saying in another video.
As for a motive, Solano reportedly told undercover agents he wanted to “send a message” and because he had “resentment inside.”
During the investigation, undercover FBI agents supplied Solano with a hoax bomb on Friday, October 20th – an inert bomb that Solano thought he had armed before trying to walk into the mall that same day instead of on Black Friday.
Just before he could enter the mall, authorities took him into custody on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Representatives with the Dolphin Mall declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.