Those that met him described Emerson Begolly, 24, as a nice young man, but his online profile was the opposite. According to the FBI, he forcefully incited violence against Americans and Jews. When FBI agents went to talk to him in 2011, he reached for a handgun and then bit an agent when they disarmed him. In September, Begolly was sentenced by a federal judge to eight years and six months for soliciting others to engage in acts of terrorism within the United States and for using a firearm in relation to an assault on FBI agents. Begolly pled guilty in 2011.
This is a guy who definitely had the potential to hurt people,” said Special Agent Blake McGuire, who led part of the investigation from the FBI’s Pittsburgh office. “He was a disaffected U.S. citizen who was susceptible to the message of violent extremism, and he became self-radicalized on the Internet. That type of offender—the so-called lone wolf—is extremely dangerous because they can be difficult to discover before they resort to violence.”
Begolly got the FBI’s attention in 2010 when he began posting violent material on an Islamic extremist forum. Using the pseudonym Abu Nancy, the Pennsylvania resident solicited fellow jihadists to use firearms and explosives against American police stations, post offices, Jewish schools, and daycare centers, military facilities, train lines, and water plants. He further urged them to “write their legacy in blood” and promised a special place in the afterlife for violent action in the name of God. Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Pittsburgh and Northern Virginia worked on the case with U.S. Attorneys from both states. Begolly was under surveillance when he purchased an assault weapon.
Several months later, he escalated his online postings by posting a manual on how to manufacture a bomb. Shortly after that, agents obtained search warrants for the homes of Begolly’s parents. During the searches, agents approached Begolly at a restaurant where he tried to pull a handgun on them. When the agents subdued him, he bit their fingers to try to free himself.
The FBI said, “his actions were consistent with a previous online post in which he urged jihadists not to be taken alive by law enforcement and to always carry a loaded firearm.”