TAPPAN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A New York man is under arrest for allegedly plotting to blow himself up on the National Mall on election day.
Paul Rosenfeld, 56, wanted to kill himself to draw attention to his “radical political beliefs,” authorities said.
“As alleged, Paul M. Rosenfeld concocted a twisted plan to draw attention to his political ideology by killing himself on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. risking harm to many others in the process,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “Rosenfeld’s alleged plan for an Election Day detonation cut against our democratic principles.”
Rosenfeld allegedly supported a political belief called sortition, which advocates for random selection of government officials. He bought large quantities of black powder over the internet to build a large bomb in his basement, authorities said. He had previously made and tested other small bombs, according to authorities.
“He was just one of those people, very nice. Just an unassuming person,” neighbor John Steiner said.
When FBI agent searched his home after getting a tip from a concerned citizen, they found “what appeared to be a functional explosive device weighing approximately 200 pounds.”
The bomb was removed from his home and transported to a safe location, officials said. A law enforcement source tells CBS News’ Pat Milton that the device would have been capable of causing injury and possible death to others, particularly in a crowded area.
According to the criminal complaint, Rosenfeld sent letters and text messages in August and September to someone in Pennsylvania outlining his plan.
“I’ve lived two doors down from him for ten years,” Steiner said. “They seemed like very nice people, they were always nice to me and my family.”
Authorities believe Rosenfeld was working alone. FBI Director Christopher Wray says agents are currently investigating about 1,000 homegrown terror threats across the country.
“Those cover the waterfront of extremist ideologies from right, left, and everything in between,” Wray said.
Rosenfeld was charged with unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He is also charged with interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive, which also has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.