A Missouri native who said he wanted to participate in a terrorist attack that would cause many deaths and injuries are charged with helping plan a Presidents Day attack on buses, trains and a train station in Kansas City, federal officials said Tuesday.
Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., 25, was charged in U.S. District Court of Kansas City with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The charges were the culmination of a months-long FBI investigation during which Hester allegedly expressed his willingness to assist in what he believed was an Islamic State plan to cause mass casualties in an attack on U.S. soil.
A criminal complaint said federal officials began investigating Hester in August 2016 after receiving tips about social media posts in which he said he had converted to Islam and expressed hatred for the United States and a tendency toward violence. Undercover FBI agents contacted Hester first online and then in several face-to-face meetings to discuss whether he wanted to participate in a terrorist attack. During those contacts, Hester “expressed his interest in and exhibited his willingness to commit violence in support of a foreign terrorist organization,” according to the complaint. Hester, a married father of two children who served less than a year in the U.S. Army, also provided materials such as roofing nails, batteries and other items that he was told would be used to build bombs for the attack, the complaint said. He also was shown weapons and was told several backpacks containing explosives would be placed in different locations in Kansas City.