By Todd L. Davis
A man charged with helping plan an attack on a provocative Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas that ended with two Phoenix men being killed in a shootout with police also wanted to join Islamic State and attack the Super Bowl, prosecutors say.
The revelation at a court hearing for Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem shows that the Phoenix-based plot extended beyond last month's shootout.
An indictment filed in federal court in Phoenix last week says that 43-year-old Abdul Kareem hosted the gunmen in his home beginning in January and provided the guns they used in the May 3 shooting in Garland, Texas. The indictment also says others were involved, but no other arrests or indictments have been made.
At a court hearing, prosecutors portrayed Abdul Kareem as motivated to join the burgeoning Islamic State movement as the terrorist group rampaged through the Middle East and gained a large following on social media. They obtained their information from a confidential informant.
Prosecutor Kristen Brook called Abdul Kareem "off the charts dangerous." Defense lawyer Daniel Maynard calls it a trumped-up case based largely on an unreliable snitch.
The magistrate denied bail for Abdul Kareem, who is charged with conspiracy, making false statements and interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a felony.
Nadir Soofi and Elton Simpson were roommates in Phoenix and drove to Texas to attack the event featuring cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims. They were killed by police after they drove up and opened fire outside the contest at a conference center, injuring a security guard. No one attending the event in suburban Dallas was hurt.
Abdul Kareem practiced shooting with Simpson, Soofi and others in the remote desert outside Phoenix between January and May, the indictment said. He hosted the gunmen and others in his home to discuss the contest and the shooters' plans to travel to Texas to attack the event, according to the indictment.
Court records in Phoenix show Abdul Kareem had a criminal record, struggled with substance abuse and had difficulty finding steady employment.
He has two aggravated drunken driving convictions in Arizona, including a 1998 case where he was found passed out with a beer bottle between his legs behind the wheel of a vehicle that was still running. He was also charged in 1997 with aggravated assault after a woman told police that Abdul Kareem had pointed a gun in her direction. Abdul Kareem maintained that he didn't point the weapon at anyone and instead had taken the gun away from his brother during an argument.
After a second DUI arrest, probation officials say Abdul Kareem was generally cooperative but had continued to drive while drunk and struggle with substance abuse. He was sentenced to four months in jail.
He was born and raised in Philadelphia as Decarus Lowell Thomas and changed his name to Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem in 2013. His attorney, Daniel Maynard, didn't immediately respond to phone or email messages early Tuesday.
Kareem is charged with conspiracy, making false statements and interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a felony. He is also known as Decarus Thomas. He has lived in multiple locations in Phoenix and suburban Glendale during the last several years, records show.
Kareem attended the same Phoenix mosque where Soofi and Simpson occasionally prayed.
Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, said Kareem attended the mosque for at least four years, and, at times, volunteered to clean the carpets. On at least one occasion, Simpson helped him with the carpets, he said.
Shami said he has not seen Kareem at the mosque in the last six to eight months, and he first learned about Kareem's possible involvement in the plot when FBI agents showed him 15 to 20 photos of different people.
"They had a lot of photos. They asked not only me, but other people if they have seen him," Shami said. "The FBI is going to do their jobs and they are going to follow their leads and whatever they find we are going to cooperate with them."
The FBI arrested Kareem on June 11, and he is set for a court appearance Tuesday in Phoenix.
Phoenix FBI spokesman Anthony Farinacci declined to provide additional details or say if the agency was seeking other suspects in the case. "The indictment speaks for itself," he said.
Hours before the shooting, the bureau warned local authorities that Simpson, who had a prior terrorism-related conviction, might go to the event, but police said they didn't see the bulletin in time.
Neither the FBI nor Garland police said they anticipated that either suspect would target the contest, whose depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are considered blasphemous by Muslims. Such drawings have sparked violence around the world.
The FBI has said Simpson and Soofi were armed with three pistols, three assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.