Authorities say attack at Islamic center thwarted after arrest

By Jason Lanning, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 05, 2017, 8:39 AM EST

Jacksonville authorities and the FBI say they have prevented a mass shooting. 

  • Authorities say attack at Islamic center thwarted after arrest
  • Bernardino Gawala Bolatete arrested after undercover operation
  • Jacksonville Sheriff: "(He) had the weaponry necessary"

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, authorities arrested a 69-year-old man who was planning a mass shooting at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced Monday that police arrested Bernardino Gawala Bolatete after he tried to buy a gun silencer from an undercover officer.

Authorities began surveillance of Bolatete, an immigrant from the Phillipines, after a tip from a confidential source. 

"Investigation confirmed that the suspect was making plans to carry out a mass shooting," said Sheriff Williams. "And he already had the weaponry necessary to complete the attack. Multiple covert recordings of the conversation between the undercover detective and the suspect affirmed his intentions to conduct a mass shooting at the Islamic Center."

An undercover operation led to agents selling an unregistered silencer to Bolatete. During taped conversations, Bolatete repeated his plans for the shooting.

The purchase of the silencer was federal weapons crime that allowed the FBI to arrest Bolatete last Friday. 

Police then raided Bolatete's Jacksonville home in a search for more weapons or materials he may have been stockpiling for the attack. 

Williams said Bolatete already had the weaponry necessary to carry out the attack.

Bolatete is being held by the FBI and more charges could be filed. It was not known if he has an attorney.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.