The heavily armed man who murdered one Fargo police officer and wounded two while they investigated a traffic stop was interrogated by the FBI in 2021 about his firearms, according to authorities.
In response to questions from The Associated Press, the FBI and Fargo Police Department stated that the FBI received an anonymous tip about Mohamad Barakat in July 2021, in which the tipper expressed concern about Barakat’s mental state and stated that he had access to a “significant number of firearms” and had used threatening language.
The FBI shared the details with the Fargo Police Department. The statement indicates that detectives visited Barakat’s residence three times over the next two weeks. According to the statement, they reached him on their third visit and discovered several firearms in his residence, none of which were unlawful.
In an interview, Barakat “denied any malicious intent,” according to the statement. As there were no indications of ongoing illicit activity or imminent danger, it was determined that no further action could be taken.
Officer Jake Wallin, 23, was slain and Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes were injured while responding to a routine traffic accident on July 14. Another officer fatally shot Barakat.
Disturbing Online Trail: Shooter’s Internet Searches Point to Sinister Intentions Before Tragic Incident
Attorney General Drew Wrigley said last week that a search of Barakat’s residence after the shooting revealed that he had searched the internet for terms including “kill fast,” “explosive ammo,” “incendiary rounds,” and “mass shooting events” over the past five years. Barakat also searched for “area events with crowds” the night before the shooting, which yielded the news article “Thousands enjoy the first day of the Downtown Fargo Street Fair.”
Authorities stated that if Officer Zach Robinson had not killed Barakat, 37, the attack could have been much worse. Wrigley stated that all evidence indicates that Barakat stumbled upon the traffic accident by chance and that his ambush was a diversion from his much larger intended target.
The downtown fair was in its second day on the day of the attack and was less than three miles (five kilometers) from the impact site. Barakat also sought for information on the Red River Valley Fair, which was only a 6-mile (10-kilometer) drive from the crime site, according to the attorney general.Uncertain whether or not this was the intended target.
Police discovered after the shooting that Barakat’s vehicle was laden with firearms, a homemade grenade, more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition, three “large” containers of gasoline, and two propane tanks, one of which was completely filled and the other half-filled with improvised explosive materials, according to Wrigley.
Wrigley stated that the rifle’s binary trigger allowed it to discharge so rapidly that it resembled an automatic weapon. A binary trigger is a modification that permits a weapon to discharge one round when the trigger is drawn and another when it is released, effectively doubling the firing capacity of a gun.
The statement released on Thursday indicated that the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center received the information in July 2021. The caller did not provide any information regarding possible threats made by Barakat, nor did he indicate that he had broken any laws.
Diana Freedman, a spokesperson for the FBI in Minneapolis, stated that the report led to the inclusion of Barakat on the Guardian Threat Tracking System.
When it receives unconfirmed information about potentially suspicious behavior, the FBI routinely initiates what it refers to internally as assessments, the lowest level, least intrusive, and most basic stage of a terrorism-related investigation.
This data is cataloged within the Guardian system. During the assessment phase of an investigation, FBI agents are permitted to take certain fundamental investigative steps, such as undertaking online research or visual surveillance, but cannot use more sophisticated tools, such as wiretaps, without additional evidence of wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for the city of Fargo did not immediately respond to an AP inquiry regarding the 2021 police visit to Barakat.
Previously, Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski stated that he believed police had some contact with Barakat “but nothing substantial.”
Barakat was a Syrian national who sought asylum in the United States in 2012 and became a citizen in 2019, according to Wrigley, who added that Barakat had relations in the United States but not in the Fargo area. It appears that he has no connections to the Fargo Muslim community.
In recent years, Barakat has accumulated an arsenal. The attorney general stated that his internet inquiries about causing mayhem trace back to 2018, with periods of cessation before resumption. He stated that nothing online, on Barakat’s phone, in the community, or with his family indicated that he had a disdain for the police.
Wrigley previously stated that it appears all of Barakat’s weapons were legally acquired. He also stated that Barakat was wearing a vest that was “absolutely stuffed” with magazines and that he was “practicing his shooting skills in the hours leading up to the attack.”