ISIS supporter planned lone-wolf style terror attack in Virginia

Lionel Williams

NORFOLK, Va. — An ISIS supporter who planned a “lone-wolf style terror attack” in Virginia was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to the United States Attorney’s Office. Lionel Williams, 27, of Suffolk, was arrested in December 2016.

“Lionel Williams planned to conduct a lone-wolf style terror attack,” Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said. “He adhered to a radicalized version of Islam, publically declared his allegiance to ISIS on social media, and ordered an AK-47 assault rifle the day after the San Bernardino terrorist attack. What started with radicalized internet postings escalated to attempts to help ISIS buy weapons and ammunition, and ended with a plan to kill law enforcement officers here in Virginia. I want to thank the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office and the Suffolk Police Department for their extraordinary work on this case.”

An affidavit filed in the case indicated that in March 2016 a member of the public told the FBI that Williams had been posting videos and content in support of ISIL on Facebook. The individual also told the FBI that Williams had recently acquired an AK-47 assault rifle.

Specifics of some of the Facebook posts are detailed in the affidavit here.

In late April 2016 Williams, who also goes by the name of Harun Ash-Shababi, was “friended” on Facebook by an FBI-controlled persona.

Williams met with and FBI Undercover Employee in mid June when he reportedly stated that he supports attacks on “hard targets.” The FBI believes “hard targets” are police officers, military and other targets that have the ability to defend themselves.  Williams also allegedly stated that if he were to conduct an attack, he would target someone who could fight back. He also told the FBI employee that he had not carried out an attack because his grandmother is still alive and he needed to care for her.

Read more about the conversations between Williams and the FBI persona in the affidavit here.

The affidavit also alleged that in October and November 2016, Williams sent money to a person he believed was collecting money for ISIL to purchase weapons and ammunition for ISIL fighters.

In addition, the court documents state that the investigation revealed that Williams ordered an AK-47 assault rifle the day after the December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, California. Two firearms, including an AK-47 and a semi-automatic handgun, were recovered in a post-arrest search of Williams’ Suffolk home.

A neighbor says she never suspected this. “Lionel has been a good young man. He converted to Islam about five years ago,” said Irene Stewart. “I just don’t see it. I just really don’t see it. To me, he he’s a good man.”

Williams will have a lifetime of supervised release once he gets out of prison.