A Jacksonville man’s arrest could have prevented a mass shooting at an Islamic Center, authorities said.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said in a news conference Monday that Bernardino Bolatete, 69, a green card holder from the Philippines, was arrested and charged with illegal possession of a firearms silencer after he purchased the silencer from an undercover officer.
The investigation started in October, Williams said, after the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office received a tip that Bolatete had expressed anti-Muslim views and was planning to conduct a mass shooting at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.
Investigators were able to introduce Bolatete to an undercover officer, who was able to interact with him, record conversations and confirm Bolatete was planning an attack, Williams said. They also learned Bolatete already had weapons that could be used to carry out his plans.
“Investigation confirmed that the suspect was making plans to carry out a mass shooting,” said Williams. “Multiple covert recordings of the conversation between the undercover detective and the suspect affirmed his intentions to conduct a mass shooting at the Islamic Center.”
In the recorded conversations, Bolatete repeated his plans for an attack, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.
In one interaction, Bolatete even pointed out the tower and a day that the shooting could take place, according to records obtained by the Florida Times-Union.
The Florida Times-Union, citing a criminal complaint, reported the undercover officer was asked to help obtain a silencer for a rifle on Nov. 27, without any paperwork involved in the sale. The silencer was sold in the parking lot of a sporting goods store on Friday.
Bolatete was arrested and investigators searched a home in the 132000 block of Eucalyptus Drive where he was renting a room, looking for any other weapons, according to the Florida Times-Union
Bolatete told the undercover officer that he had a kidney removed after he was accidentally shot in the Philippines and his remaining kidney was losing function, according to the Florida Times-Union.
If his kidney function continued to decrease, Bolatete said he would have to undergo dialysis, so he planned on not surviving the mass shooting he was formulating, the Times-Union reported.
Bolatete was taken into custody without incident and is in the custody of the FBI. More charges could be filed, and it is unknown if he has an attorney, according to Bay News 9.
After Bolatete’s arrest, law enforcement officials met with leaders of Islamic Center to tell them about the investigation and inform them that the congregation was never at risk thanks to precautions taken by investigators, special agent in charge of the Jacksonville FBI office Charles Spencer said in a news conference.
During the news conference, Williams thanked the several state and federal agencies who assisted with the investigation.