A 20-year-old California student and outgoing National Guard member was arrested and charged with supporting a terrorist group after allegedly planning to join Islamic extremists in Syria, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Nicholas Teausant of Acampo, Calif., who prosecutors said had also spoken of a desire to bomb the Los Angeles subway system, was arrested in Washington state on a northbound Amrak bus near the Canadian border, the Associated Press eported.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Sacramento, Teausant wanted to join the Al Qaeda-affiliated group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
The AP reported that the criminal complaint said that starting last spring, Teausant began expressing a desire to see America’s downfall, writing on a social media account: “I would love to join Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.”
Teausant is a student at San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton, Calif., and a member of the National Guard. In December, he began the process of being discharged because he did not meet the minimum academic requirements.
He described himself as a convert to Islam, a development also noted by fellow students who know him.
California’s KGO-TV reported that Teausant posted a video online in which he said: “Allah is great and the most wonderful planner. He’s the best of planners.”
A YouTube account registered under his name includes multiple videos about Islamist fighters in Syria. There are also several videos about Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-cleric and key Al Qaeda figure who was killed by an American drone strike in 2011.
Prosecutors asserted that Teausant planned to engage in jihad in Syria alongside other hardline Islamist rebels.
“My designs have me staying there and being on every news station in the world,” Teausant told an FBI informant last month, according to the complaint.
“I’m going to be a commander and I’m going to be on the front of every single newspaper in the country,” he said. “Like I want my face on FBI’s top 12 most wanted. Because that means I’m doing something right.”
As part of his contribution to the jihadi cause, Teausant planned to appear in videos for the group without the traditional head covering to mask his identity, to be “the one white devil that leaves their face wide open to the camera,” he said according to the complaint.
Teausant told the informant that he was planning to target the Los Angeles subway on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, but halted the plot after he believed it had been uncovered.
“The complaint said he had discussed numerous other ideas for terrorist activity that never came to fruition, including a plot supposedly hatched during a camping trip with seven other people to bomb the Los Angeles subway system last New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day,” the AP reported. “Investigators never corroborated that such a camping trip actually occurred. When an informant questioned Teausant on Jan. 4 about what happened to his plan, Teausant responded that it was canceled because ‘they’ had been ‘tipped off,’ the complaint said.”
Just last week, Teausant was interviewed by a local television reporter about the man wearing a military uniform at the same college who was accused of not really serving in the military, an incident which devolved into a tense shouting match on campus.
Delta College student Sean Reily told KGO-TV of Teausant, “It’s really shocking someone at Delta would be known as probably a terrorist.”
Other classmates said he was quiet and liked to play chess.
“He was a newly converted Muslim, but he never really pushed it onto anybody. He never said anything, he was just normal,” fellow student Yonathan Admassu said.
Teausant was charged with a single count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, the maximum penalty he could face is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Watch this report from KGO-TV: