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Tag: Detroit

American Muslim Arrested in Detroit Had Apparent Ties to Anwar al-Awlaki

Anwar al-Awlaki

Anwar al-Awlaki

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — An American Muslim arrested in Detroit has apparent connections to an al-Qaida leader who radicalized the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Detroit News reports. 

FBI agents raided Sebastian Gregerson’s home on the west side and found illegally purchased grenades and CDs marked “Anwar al-Awlaki,” an al-Qaida recruiter who met with Abdulmutallab ahead of the Christmas Day 2009 attack on a Detroit-bound flight.

The FBI also seized seven rifles, two AK-47 assault rifles, handguns, a shotgun, thousands of round of ammunition, cellphones and computer equipment.

“When you look through most of the cases of individuals who get arrested for terrorism charges, the vast majority had al-Awlaki on their laptops,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Detroit Man Arrested After Stockpiling Grenades, Assault Rifle, Other Weapons

fbi-logBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI had been tracking a 29-year-old Detroit man for 16 months a he collected an unusual array of weapons.

The bureau said Sebastian Gregerson was stockpiling grenades, assault rifles, combat knives and road spikes, the Detroit Free Press reports.

On Sunday night, Gregerson was arrested after trying to buy grenades from undercover agents.

It’s unclear what Gregerson planned to do with the weapons, and the FBI stopped short of calling him a terrorism suspect.

His attorney, Bill Swor, said the charges suggested “they don’t have any evidence that this person had any real attack plan or any activity planned.”

FBI Arrests Man Accused of Contaminating Food at Grocery Stores in Michigan

Surveillance of the suspect, via FBI.

Surveillance of the suspect, via FBI.

Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

A man suspected of contaminating food at open food bars in Ann Arbor grocery stores has been taken into custody, the FBI in Detroit announced Tuesday.

Tips from the public directly led to this individual being identified, the FBI said in a press release. Charges has yet to filed and his name was not immediately being released.

The FBI said the suspect has admitted to using a potentially hazardous material to contaminate produce in Ann Arbor area grocery stores, specifically a liquid mixture of hand cleaner, water and Tomcat mice poison.

The stores effected include:

• Whole Foods Market — 990 W. Eisenhower Parkway — Ann Arbor, MI
• Meijer — 3145 Ann Arbor – Saline Road — Ann Arbor, MI
• Plum Market — 375 North Maple Road — Ann Arbor, M

Attorney: Terrorism Suspect Entrapped by Flirtatious Undercover Agents

Khalil Abu-Rayyan.

Khalil Abu-Rayyan.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A 21-year-old Muslim man accused of planning an attack on a Detroit church was lured into a relationship by a woman who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, his attorney said.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see you right by me,” he texted her on Dec. 13, according to the Detroit Free Press.  “Words can’t explain my love for you.”

Soon after, the woman cut off the relationship with Khalil Abu-Rayyan. A month later, another woman began communicating with Abu-Rayyan, saying she loved him. She, too, was an undercover FBI employee, the man’s attorney, Todd Shanker, wrote in a court brief.

“The government resorted to a mind-boggling double-team against Rayyan with not one, but two young, fictitious Islamic women, who mercilessly manipulated him and pretended to be potential wives to Rayyan, a young U.S. citizen with no prior criminal history before the government’s aggressive involvement in his personal life,” Shanker wrote.

A judge denied Abu-Rayyan’s request for bond.

A Cold Murder Case in Detroit Dating Back to 1857

poster

By Gregory Stejskal

There is an apocryphal story – Ernest Hemingway was having lunch with some writer friends when he proposed a wager. He bet $10 that he could write a story in six words. With no doubt some curiosity, everyone at the table put $10 in the pot. Hemingway wrote on a napkin, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Hemingway passed the napkin around the table and collected his winnings.

Hemingway’s six word story is an extreme example of what is called flash fiction. My experience with something that might qualify as flash fiction was an 1857 reward poster that my wife found at an estate sale in Ann Arbor (Michigan).

The poster had a place, Detroit, and a date of April 14, 1857, and was offering “$1,500 Reward!” for information regarding a missing man, “John Rodgers, a resident of the town of Farmington, age 27.” The poster provides a physical description of John Rodgers and the clothing he was wearing when last seen leaving “Finney’s Hotel stable at dusk Tuesday evening, April 7th” (1857) where he left a span (pair) of horses.

The poster also indicates a suspicion of “foul play” and offers $1,000 “for the detection of any person or persons who may have been guilty of the murder of John Rodgers….” The reward is offered by Stephen Rodgers.

Like Hemingway’s baby shoes, the poster doesn’t so much tell a story as it suggests one.

My wife had the poster framed, and it has hung next to my desk. I have often wondered about the fate of John Rodgers, and what clues were contained on the poster.

The thing that literally stands out is the reward amount, “$1,500” In 1857 $1,500 was a very large amount of money worth about $42,000 today. It isn’t clear who Stephen Rodgers was from the poster, but he must have been a man of some means.

Since having the poster, I have made sporadic inquiries of local historians and checked records trying to find the rest of the story behind the poster.

Lee Peel, a historian of Farmington (Michigan), was able to determine that Stephen and John Rodgers were prosperous farmers with land in Farmington, but he wasn’t able to find any information regarding the incident described in the poster.

Later I happened on an article in the Detroit Free Press about the abolition movement and the rise of the Republican Party in Michigan. In the article Seymour Finney was mentioned. In the 1850s Finney was an abolitionist who ran a hotel in Detroit. Behind the hotel he had a large barn on the northeast corner of State and Griswald Sts. (Today there is an historical marker there.) Finney used the barn to hide runaway slaves until they could cross the Detroit River into Canada. The barn was located just blocks from the river.

Canada was a haven for the erstwhile slaves because in 1837 England had abolished slavery in their entire empire. So any slave that made it to Canada was free.

In the 1840s and 50s, an Underground Railroad developed in the US. Slaves followed established routes to northern states where they were relatively safe. Some of those routes led from the south to Michigan where there were many sympathetic people willing to hide them and aid their passage to Canada.

In fact the Republican Party, which was established by people opposed to the expansion of slavery beyond the states where it existed, began to flourish in Michigan. The party’s first statewide convention was held in Jackson, Michigan in 1854. One the party’s founders was Dr. Nathan Thomas, who had a medical practice in Kalamazoo and maintained a “station” on the Underground Railroad in Kalamazoo.

There were also free Blacks in Michigan who were active in the Underground Railroad. George de Baptiste, a freeman, owned a barbershop and a bakery in Detroit. He also owned a steamship named, T. Whitney, which transported freight and passengers from Detroit to Windsor, Canada. The T. Whitney also surreptiously smuggled escaped slaves to Canada at de Baptiste’s direction.

De Baptiste had formed a secret organization, African-American Mysteries or Order of the Men of Oppression, that worked with the Underground Railroad. Seymour Finney as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad would have been a member or an affiliate of the secret organization.

Secrecy was necessary because in 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted by Congress. The act required that slaves apprehended anywhere in the US including “free” states be returned to their slave masters. Rewards were offered for slaves, and despite there being many people in Michigan who were anti-slavery, there were many who were not opposed to slavery or were out to collect a reward. On occasion slave-catchers stayed in Finney’s Hotel while slaves were hidden in the barn.

So John Rodgers was last seen leaving “Finney’s Hotel stable at dusk….” Had he stumbled across some fugitive slaves? Did he attempt to obstruct their escape or did he try to resist efforts by bounty hunters to apprehend slaves?

Recently I talked to a Detroit historian, Bill Loomis, about the poster. Loomis has access to Detroit newspaper archives. (I had previously had other people with access to newspaper archives search for anything relating to John Rodgers disappearance with no success.) Loomis was able to find one article in the Detroit Free Press, dated May 21, 1857 and titled “Verdict in Rodgers Case.”

The article is not about a trial, but an inquest held in the office of Justice Ensworth, presumably acting as coroner. John Rodgers body had been recovered from the Detroit River, but it is not clear from the article when it was recovered. The reward poster was dated April 14th, seven days after he went missing, and the inquest occurred on May 20th.

One witness at the inquest was the father of the deceased, Stephen Rodgers, who offered the reward. Mr. Rodgers testified that he and John had come to the city with a load of pork which was sold. The father kept the proceeds from the sale except for $6 which he gave to his son, John, at about 1-2 pm. Rodgers said that he thought his son had from $25-100 in his possession and that he had two “porte-monnaies” (wallets) with him, a new one and an old one. No money was found with the body.

When Rodgers paid his son the money, he noticed some men standing on the corner nearby. “There were from four to six men and they were talking with one another. I noticed particularly one of them looking at us. They had the appearance of rather hard cases. I never saw them before neither have I seen them since.”

Also testifying at the inquest was a Dr. Terry who apparently was the medical examiner. He had done an analysis of the deceased’s stomach which had been delivered to him the day before in a jar. (In a time before refrigeration, this evokes some unsavory images.) Dr. Terry determined that John Rodgers last meal was corned beef and potatoes. Due to the state of digestion, Dr. Terry believed Rodgers died 2-3 hours after his last meal.

Dr. Terry testified that he had conducted “chemical tests to the contents of the stomach to ascertain whether opium or any of its preparations were present including morphine or its salts. Nothing of the kind was detected. (This seems to infer that at that time if poisoning were suspected, the drug of choice was an opiate.) The time that has elapsed since the death of Mr. Rodgers would render the detection of a vegetable poison very difficult if not impossible.”

Dr. Terry concluded: “I would say, that in regard to Mr. Rodgers’ death, it strikes me that the theory assumed by the physicians on the post mortem examination, that is, that the deceased was drugged is the most probable one. The absence of opium or morphine in the contents of the stomach at such a length of time after his death is no disproof of this supposition.”

The verdict of the jury was: “The jury upon their oaths present that from the appearance of the body and from all the facts and circumstances disclosed by the testimony, they are of the opinion that said Rodgers came to death in the city of Detroit by unlawful means, used by persons or persons unknown to the jurors who are unable definitely to determine from the testimony before them what means in fact were used by the murderers to effect (sic) their diabolical purpose.”

So the jury concluded that Rodgers was murdered, but they didn’t know how or why or by whom. Like the unused baby shoes several possibilities are suggested. I will continue to search for the rest of the story, but at least now I know John Rodgers fate.

Stejskal: A Very Cold Murder Case in Detroit Dating Back to 1857

poster

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Gregory Stejskal

There is an apocryphal story – Ernest Hemingway was having lunch with some writer friends when he proposed a wager. He bet $10 that he could write a story in six words. With no doubt some curiosity, everyone at the table put $10 in the pot. Hemingway wrote on a napkin, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Hemingway passed the napkin around the table and collected his winnings.

Hemingway’s six word story is an extreme example of what is called flash fiction. My experience with something that might qualify as flash fiction was an 1857 reward poster that my wife found at an estate sale in Ann Arbor (Michigan).

The poster had a place, Detroit, and a date of April 14, 1857, and was offering “$1,500 Reward!” for information regarding a missing man, “John Rodgers, a resident of the town of Farmington, age 27.” The poster provides a physical description of John Rodgers and the clothing he was wearing when last seen leaving “Finney’s Hotel stable at dusk Tuesday evening, April 7th” (1857) where he left a span (pair) of horses.

The poster also indicates a suspicion of “foul play” and offers $1,000 “for the detection of any person or persons who may have been guilty of the murder of John Rodgers….” The reward is offered by Stephen Rodgers.

Like Hemingway’s baby shoes, the poster doesn’t so much tell a story as it suggests one.

My wife had the poster framed, and it has hung next to my desk. I have often wondered about the fate of John Rodgers, and what clues were contained on the poster.

The thing that literally stands out is the reward amount, “$1,500” In 1857 $1,500 was a very large amount of money worth about $42,000 today. It isn’t clear who Stephen Rodgers was from the poster, but he must have been a man of some means.

Since having the poster, I have made sporadic inquiries of local historians and checked records trying to find the rest of the story behind the poster.

Lee Peel, a historian of Farmington (Michigan), was able to determine that Stephen and John Rodgers were prosperous farmers with land in Farmington, but he wasn’t able to find any information regarding the incident described in the poster.

Later I happened on an article in the Detroit Free Press about the abolition movement and the rise of the Republican Party in Michigan. In the article Seymour Finney was mentioned. In the 1850s Finney was an abolitionist who ran a hotel in Detroit. Behind the hotel he had a large barn on the northeast corner of State and Griswald Sts. (Today there is an historical marker there.) Finney used the barn to hide runaway slaves until they could cross the Detroit River into Canada. The barn was located just blocks from the river.

Canada was a haven for the erstwhile slaves because in 1837 England had abolished slavery in their entire empire. So any slave that made it to Canada was free.

In the 1840s and 50s, an Underground Railroad developed in the US. Slaves followed established routes to northern states where they were relatively safe. Some of those routes led from the south to Michigan where there were many sympathetic people willing to hide them and aid their passage to Canada.

Read more »

Border Patrol Agents Rescue Two Suicidal Men in Detroit on Same Day

Detroit riverfront. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Detroit riverfront. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol agents saved two men attempting to commit suicide in separate incidents in Detroit on Wednesday.

The Detroit News reports that a Border Patrol agent on patrol spotted a man stumbling in the street at about 7 p.m.

“The agent stopped to assist him and noticed he was covered in blood,” authorities said Thursday. “The individual stated he just tried to commit suicide and stabbed himself.”

Instead of waiting for an ambulance, agents rushed the man to the hospital.

At 10:30 p.m. that night, separate Border Patrol agents responded to a possible suicidal man near the Detroit River. The man jumped into the river but was rescued when the agents threw bags with ropes so the man could reach shore.

“Each of us in this world has a purpose,” Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said in a statement Thursday. “I am proud that the purpose for these Border Patrol agents last night was to save the lives of two people who needed help.”

Attorney: Terror Suspect Manipulated by FBI Employee Posing as Young Muslim Woman

ISIS flag

ISIS flag

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — The man accused of planning an ISIS attack on a large Detroit church was manipulated by an FBI employee posing as a 19-year-old Iraqi American Muslim woman, his defense attorney told a federal judge.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the attorney claimed the FBI employee enticed his 21-year-old client, Khalil Abu-Rayyan, in an attempt to get him to make boastful remarks about violence in the name of ISIS.

Ultimately, the attorney said, Abu-Rayyan fell in love with the woman who he believed was a Sunni teen.

Because of that, Abu-Rayyan “was lying and boasting” to impress a young Muslim woman whom he wanted to marry.

Prosecutors, however, described Abu-Rayyan as a man bent on carrying out a violent attack.

Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen agreed.

“There was real readiness” to carry out attacks, Judge Whalen said. “There was an expression of intent.”

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