JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 69-year-old Jacksonville man has been arrested for allegedly planning a mass shooting at an Islamic Center on St. Johns Bluff Road, according to several law enforcement agencies.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, along with the FBI of Jacksonville, started investigating in October Bernandino Gawala Bolatete after a source tipped JSO. The source told police that Bolatete expressed strong anti-Islamic sentiment, including how he wanted to conduct a mass shooting at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, 2333 St. Johns Bluff Rd. S.
JSO said an undercover detective met with Bolatete and confirmed the information they received.
During the investigation, Bolatete made plans to conduct the mass shooting, including obtaining the weaponry to complete the attack, according to JSO Sheriff Mike Williams.
The undercover detective also learned that Bolatete made arrangements to get access to a gun silencer - a prohibited firearm accessory - delivered to his home on December 1.
During the delivery, JSO's SWAT Unit raided Bolatete's home on the 13000 block of Eucalyptus Drive and took him into custody.
Bolatete is now in FBI custody and he's been charged with knowingly receiving and possessing a silencer not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. The investigation is ongoing.
FBI conducts undercover investigation into Bolatete
JSO, the FBI and the ATF all worked together in order to arrest Bolatete.
JSO received a typed statement from a concerned citizen who said the suspect expressed a hatred for Muslims and made a specific threat to "shoot up" a mosque in the Jacksonville area.
JSO successfully introduced an undercover officer to Bolatete at some point this year, possibly in October.
During meetings with the undercover officer, Bolatete repeatedly expressed his hatred for Muslims and told the officer about a medical condition involving his kidney. The suspect said he used to a be a "Rangemaster" at a shooting range in the Philippines. Years ago, someone accidentally shot the suspect in the back while he was working at the range, resulting in the loss of a kidney, the criminal complaint said.
Bolatete also said he was shot by a drunken police officer in the Philippines, and also claimed to have shot and killed the police officer after arguing about a parking spot, the complaint said.
On Nov. 10, the undercover officer picked up Bolatete from his residence to travel together to shoot weapons at the St. Johns County FOP Lodge 113 Range, located at 5050 Inman Road in St. Augustine.
While they were driving past the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida on St. Johns Bluff Road, Bolatete made numerous anti-Muslim comments to the undercover officer.
"Keep shooting those Muslims, you know, on Friday," the suspect allegedly said with a laugh.
The suspect alluded to possibly shooting people at the Islamic Center on a Friday, which is the day of the week when Muslims congregate at mosques for prayer.
Bolatete also said to the officer that there was a problem with Muslims in the Philippines when he lived there.
The suspect told the officer he had five firearms, including an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that can be converted into an AR-47, the complaint said.
He also told the undercover officer that "I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know? They are the ones who are always doing these shootings, the killings,"
Bolatete mentioned to the officer that he shot a man in the stomach with a silenced gun, the criminal complaint said.
While shooting at the range on Nov. 24, the suspect met with the officer, who told Bolatete that he had a friend who had several weapons and silencers that he was trying to sell.
The undercover officer met with the suspect on Nov. 27 at Bolatete's workplace, Wacko's Liquor Depot. There, the suspect expressed interest in purchasing a silencer from the officer without paperwork because that would "give the government the right to search" the suspect's property, according to the arrest report.
In a text message, Bolatete told the undercover officer that the silencer he currently possessed was not registered.
Days later, the undercover officer and Bolatete met with the agreement that Bolatete would purchase another silencer for $100. The two made the transaction at an Acaedmy Sports on Atlantic Boulevard.
The suspect also said he possessed a 45-caliber handgun in his vehicle.
Stay with First Coast News as this story develops.
Watch the press conference below:
Criminal Complaint Bernandino Bolatete on Scribd