Washington, D.C. – Former Metro Transit Police Officer Nicholas Young, the only U.S. police officer to ever face terrorism charges, is scheduled for trial in Alexandria, Virginia, on Dec. 5.
His family and attorneys have said that Officer Young was misunderstood. He told The Washington Post his historical enthusiasms and dark sense of humor have been distorted to wrongly portray him as man with long-standing terroristic proclivities.
Officer Young, 36, was arrested in August of 2016, on charges of attempted material support for terrorism, and obstruction of justice.
He has said he was entrapped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to The Post.
But authorities said the investigation into Officer Young began much earlier, while he was serving as a police officer in the nation’s capital.
A D.C.-native, he attended George Mason University, and joined ROTC after high school. He left college early to work in security, and became a police officer with the Washington Area Metro Transit Authority’s Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) in 2003.
Officer Young began studying Islam in college, and became a Muslim in 2006. Fellow police officers described Officer Young as strange, with an avid interest in history, and a passive approach to his job, The Post reported.
“Nick wasn’t just your average police officer,” former Metro station manager Henry Marrow told The Post. “He didn’t like to push people over. . . . He didn’t believe that people should be arrested for minor stuff.”
Officer Young said he never used his gun, baton, or pepper spray during the 13 years he was an MTPD officer. In 2006, he earned a commendation from the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office for apprehending a robber armed with a large knife without using a weapon, The Post reported.
Many of his fellow police officers were uncomfortable with his social media rants about the government and openness about being a Nazi reenactor. He also began to grow a long beard.
MTPD officials took their concerns to the FBI in 2008, but the agency did not begin investigating Young for another two years.
In 2011, Officer Young openly used his paid leave from MTPD to help topple the Libyan government, twice, to join rebel groups in helping to overthrow the Libyan government under Gadhafi, according to WTTG.
A co-worker warned him that the FBI was looking into his travel, and Officer Young returned home. He was met at the airport by two FBI agents.
They offered him an opportunity to become an undercover informant for the FBI, and he declined.
The agency said it didn’t have enough to arrest him at that time, but they continued to closely monitor his activities and investigate for five years as he continued to work for MTPD.
Officer Young was first contacted by the FBI in 2010 when an acquaintance, Zachary Chesser, was under investigation.
He told federal agents that he was shocked by the allegations against Chesser, who ultimately was convicted of trying to join an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group and threatening the creators of the popular television series “South Park.”
After that initial contact, Officer Young remained on the FBI’s radar after he told an undercover officer that anyone who betrayed him would end up at the bottom of a lake, and bragged about his stockpile of weapons, police said.
The officer introduced him to Amine Mohammed El Khalifi, who was later convicted of plotting to bomb the Capitol.
A couple years later, the FBI had a breakthrough in their investigation that led to their arrest of the police officer.
Officer Young met a 20-year-old man named Mohammad in 2014, and the young man made an impression on him.
“They very cleverly created this character of a sympathetic figure,” Officer Young told The Post. “When he was talking about going overseas, the reason was to fight [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad. . . . It was totally humanitarian. . . . ‘He’s killing women and children, he’s killing civilians, people are being buried alive.’ And at no time did he show himself to be particularly religious.”
A friend warned him that Mohammad was an informant, but Officer Young didn’t believe him.
“You couldn’t read the kid; he was very awkward, very weird — a putz,” the friend said. “He pulled at Nick’s heartstrings. . . . I told Nick, ‘I think this guy is an informant.’ And Nick laughed.”
Officer Young said he sent the gift cards and codes on behalf of Mohammad, who told him it was the only way to reach his family, whom reportedly he believed were with ISIS.
The affidavit said he was actually communicating with an undercover officer who thanked him for the codes by saying “May Allah reward you for efforts.”
Officer Young replied “glad it came through…getting rid of device now…for real. Gonna eat the sim card. Have a good day.”
Officer Young had a receipt for 10 gift cards in his possession when was arrested by the FBI.
He also asked agents to power-off his phone, and agents said that they believed he was trying to destroy any evidence that might be found on it.
Agents who searched his truck found a Kel-Tec .380 firearm, six hollow point bullets, $1,065 in cash, and a burner phone with clear tape over the camera aperture. Eighteen rifles and pistols were seized from his home.
The charges were based on an FBI investigation involving the purchase of gift cards and sending the codes on the back to someone he thought was working with the Islamic State.
Authorities said recorded conversations show Officer Young’s violent tendencies. He’d argued that terrorist attacks were “understandable reactions to Western aggression.”
The FBI plans to use Officer Young’s support for the Nazis as evidence to show that he was predisposed to support terrorism before he was first contacted by their agents.
Officer Young has denied the allegations, and claimed that any related material found on his computer, and in his home, was from a long-ago college class on European racism. The list of items seized include Nazi knives and pins, police said. But Officer Young has pointed out that he has collected historic military items from various wars and countries.
He denied supporting Hitler and the Nazis, although he has a large tattoo on his left bicep of a SS unit’s logo. He had an Israeli flag as his doormat, and a “Boycott the terrorist state of Israel” sticker on his vehicle.
The Post reported that Nicholas Smith, a defense attorney for Officer Young, said in court last month that the government was smearing his client in a way that defied “common sense.”
“White supremacism and militant Islam are mutually inconsistent,” he said.
“It’s a unique case; it’s a unique defendant,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in court last month. “The defendant was an adherent of both. . . . The common enemy is hatred of the Jews.”
Officer Young attended a fascist rally in 2000, and reportedly said “Don’t discount the idea of an alliance with the Muslims to combat the Jews.”
His family has stood by him, and said that he is not extremist or racist, just unusual.