Four people were arrested on Friday over alleged plans to bomb a Muslim community in upstate New York, authorities announced Tuesday.
Investigators said they first heard of the plot after a student at Greece Odyssey Academy in Greece, New York, made an offhand remark during a lunch break, which prompted another student to report the comment to school officials. Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said authorities quickly responded to the report, conducting interviews and making arrests that same day.
The suspects allegedly planned to target the Muslim enclave of Islamberg, a small area in the Catskill Mountains about 150 miles from New York City, according to Reuters. Authorities later said they seized 23 weapons and three improvised explosive devices while carrying out search warrants. All of the firearms were legally owned by relatives of those arrested.
“If they had carried out this plot, which every indication is that they were going to, people would have died,” Phelan said. “I don’t know how many and who, but people would have died.”
The suspects were identified as Brian Colaneri, 20, Andrew Crysel, 18, and Vincent Vetromile, 19. They have each been charged with three felony counts of first-degree possession of a dangerous weapon and one felony count of fourth-degree conspiracy. An unidentified 16-year-old student was also charged with the same crimes but will be tried as a minor.
Phelan said school officials first became suspicious after a student reported the 16-year-old showing a photo on his phone to some friends in the school cafeteria. The student allegedly made a comment to the effect of “he looks like the next school shooter, doesn’t he?” which prompted the complaint.
“The kid who said something saved people’s lives,” the Greece police chief said. “Everything worked, and as a result, nobody’s dead, and that’s a good story.”
It’s unclear how the men and the student knew each other, but the three men were Boy Scouts together, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Islamberg has been targeted before. In 2017, a man from Tennessee was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for plotting to burn down a mosque and other buildings in the enclave.