News10NBC Exclusive: Here's how the FBI thwarted Rochester's ISIS terrorist

May 17, 2017 11:41 PM

At the time of his arrest, the case against Emanuel Lutchman of Rochester was the FBI's biggest terrorism investigation in the country. Lutchman's plan was to attack and kill innocent people at a Rochester bar on New Year's Eve 2015.

But before he could carry out his attack, Lutchman was arrested by the FBI and the two agents who led the investigation sat down exclusively with Chief Investigative reporter Berkeley Brean.

The FBI says Emanuel Lutchman first came on their radar in 2014 when he was a member of the gang called the "Crips" and he started posting things about Al Qaeda on Facebook. Then he switched his allegiance to ISIS and the FBI says that's when he became an imminent threat.

"So when he shifts from Al Qaeda to ISIS we're concerned," Special Agent Kevin Hughey said.

FBI Special Agents Hughey and Dan Funk were the lead agents investigating Lutchman. On December 26th, 2015, they say Lutchman communicated with an ISIS' top recruiter in Syria.

Kevin Hughey, FBI Special Agent: At that point we are in behavioral radicalization and we have to, we have to act at this point.

They had four days.
Lutchman was planning to attack on December 31st.
On Sunday the 27th -- the FBI used a confidential informant to meet Lutchman.
On Tuesday the 29th -- they learned his target was the Merchant's Grill which was close to his home in Rochester.
Then on Wednesday December 30th -- they learned Lutchman was going to kill his wife that day.

Brean: So you needed to move fast.
Daniel Funk, FBI Special Agent: So we needed to move fast, correct.

On December 30, Special Agents Hughey and Funk arranged for the confidential informant to meet Lutchman in a parking lot near his home. The informant recorded Lutchman swearing his oath to ISIS. Most of it is in perfect Arabic but then he breaks into English.

"The blood you spill of the Muslims overseas we're going to spill kuffar." Lutchman said to the camera.

In the video you can see the passenger side mirror. In the reflection, you can see a black SUV with the brake light on. That was the FBI and Special Agent Hughey was inside listening.

Kevin Hughey, FBI Special Agent: As I'm listening to him swear his oath of allegiance to ISIS I'm hearing an individual that was not going to turn back.

When the recording ended Special Agent Hughey called the word "strike" and a SWAT team swarmed the car and Lutchman was arrested.

Brean: Did he say "you got me; I was going to do this?"

Funk, FBI: He admitted to taking all the steps but he would not admit to that final step -- I was going to do it. 

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Hughey, FBI: He admits to it in which he says I'm number 2. And we were saying -- what do you mean you're number 2? And he says well you got Elfgeeh. Now you got me. I'm number 2.

Mufid Elfgeeh was arrested in Rochester by Agents Hughey and Funk a year earlier. He's in prison for supporting ISIS. At the time of his arrest Lutchman was labeled by his family as homeless and harmless but the FBI says they caught a man who was intent on killing.

Hughey, FBI: He was told by Abu Issa Al Amriki (top ISIS recruiter in Syria), video someone. Behead them. Swear your oath of allegiance and we will sponsor you to come over to Syria.  This was not assembling a nuclear bomb. This was not assembling a massive attack like a grandiose scale. This was something kind of easy to do. So the scariness of it became how easy it was to do.
Funk, FBI: The plan was easy to execute but with deadly consequences.

Brean: If you did not arrest him and you have never heard the name Emanuel Lutchman what would have happened? 

Funk, FBI: I believe someone would have died. No doubt in my mind, someone would have died that day.


Berkeley Brean

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