SANTA MONICA—A former U.S. Army Veteran was arrested in an FBI sting operation on Friday, April 26 for plotting to detonate nail bombs at multiple locations in Southern California.

Mark Steven Domingo, 26, of Reseda, a former U.S. Army Infantryman, is facing federal charges in a terrorist plot in which he planned to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) for the purpose of causing mass casualties announced the U.S. Department of Justice in a press release. He allegedly planned to detonate an IED at a white nationalist free speech rally at Bluff Park in Long Beach, according to a unsealed criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors.

Photo of Mark Steven Domingo from the California Department of Motor Vehicles

The white nationalist rally was canceled after a individual claiming to be the leader told police the group would not carry out their demonstration as planned. Many counter-protesters who anticipated the rally gathered at Bluff Park that day. Authorities remained at the park as a pre-caution as counter-protesters carried on with their own demonstration.

White nationalist rally cancelled and over 100 counter-protesters showed up instead at Bluff Park in Long Beach.

Domingo asked his associate, who was actually cooperating with the FBI as part of the investigation, to find a bomb-maker and purchased several hundred nails to be used as shrapnel inside the IED according to a 30-page affidavit.

“Domingo said he specifically bought three-inch nails because they would be long enough to penetrate the human body and puncture internal organs,” the affidavit states.

Domingo asked the undercover operative to install nails into the bomb and sent a message on Thursday, April 25 that the operation would move forward the affidavit noted. The next day, the undercover operative gave Domingo multiple inert devices, which Domingo believed were weapons of mass destruction but in reality posed no danger to the public. He was taken into custody after inspecting the devices and arriving at the destination where he planned the attack.

The FBI caught wind of Domingo’s terrorist activities from a online video professing his Muslim faith on March 2 and online posts he made expressing support for violent jihad, a desire to seek retribution for attacks against Muslims, and his willingness to become a martyr.

In response to the postings, an FBI “confidential human source” (CHS) began contacting Domingo and lead to a series of in-person meetings with him. Domingo told the CHS he considered various attacks including targeting Jews, churches, and police officers.

He expressed his desire to commit terrorist acts to the CHS. He contemplated a drive-by shooting with a modified AK-47-style rifle he owned and using a IED. In one meeting Domingo allegedly expressed support for ISIS and said “if ISIS ‘came here,’ he would swear allegiance to ISIS,” according to the complaint.

According to U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna of the Central District of California, other targets of Domingo included crowds at the Santa Monica Pier and one of his neighbors

“I want to emphasize there are no on-going threat to the public related to this matter with no known conspirators and Domingo was under constant surveillance by authorities as he prepared for his attack,” said Hanna in a news conference on Monday, April 29.

A terror attack was in the works since early March and Domingo decided to move forward with his plan after the March 13 mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead. “There were mosque shootings in New Zealand. There must be retribution,” Domigo posted online the following day of the mass shootings.

“America needs another Vegas event… that would give them the taste of terror they gladly spread all over the world,” Domingo posted online after another mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 that left 58 dead.

“This investigation successfully disrupted a very real threat posed by a trained combat soldier who repeatedly stated he wanted to cause the maximum number of casualties,” said Hanna. “Protecting Americans from terror attacks is the number one priority of the Justice Department, and anyone who plots to use a weapon of mass destruction will be held to account.”

“The individual charged in this case wanted to carry out a mass casualty attack with explosive devices, and he moved very quickly from talking about violence to mobilizing to commit such an attack,” said Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s Counter-terrorism Division.  “This case should remind the public of the need to be vigilant and notify law enforcement if you see suspicious behavior.”

“I’m extremely glad to be announcing that we interdicted a potential terrorist attack, rather than outlining the FBI’s response to yet another tragedy,” said Assistant Director Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.  “At no time was the public in danger and there is currently no known threat to public safety.  I’m very proud of the agents and officers assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force who diligently marshaled the resources of our law enforcement partners in a short period of time and in doing so, ensured the safety of Southern California residents.”

Domingo was charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He has been in federal custody since his arrest, and made his initial appearance in a United States District Court on Tuesday, April 30. If convicted, Domingo faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Domingo served as an infantryman in the army from November 2011 to February 2013  and attained the rank of Private, the lowest possible grade, Lieutenant Colonel Emanuel L. Ortiz told Canyon News. Ortiz also said he was deployed to Afghanistan from September 2012 to December 2012. He was demoted and discharged from the military before completing his enlistment contract for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice a U.S. official told The Associated Press.

The investigation is being handled by a FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes special agents with the FBI and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department. JTTF members who participated in the investigation include the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Long Beach Police Department.