Michigan man accused of planning to target synagogue is charged with threats

Jun 28, 2023, 11:56 AM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted a 19-year-old Michigan man accused of making threats over social media and having loose plans to target a synagogue near Lansing, the state capital.

Seann Pietila, of Pickford in the state’s Upper Peninsula, has been in custody since June 16. An indictment charging him with making threats, including a threat to kill by fire, was filed Tuesday in federal court in Grand Rapids.

“No one should face violent threats because of their race, ethnicity, religion or any other status,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten.

A message seeking comment was left for Pietila’s attorney.

When Pietila was arrested, investigators said, he had the name of the Shaarey Zedek congregation in East Lansing on his phone along with a 2024 date. He wrote to another Instagram user that he would “inspire others to take arms against the Jewish controlled state.”

During a search of his home, agents said, they found a cache of weapons, knives, tactical equipment, and a red-and-white Nazi flag.

Agents said he made apparent references to the New Zealand shooter who is serving life in prison for killing 51 people and injuring 40 others in the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.

Pietila was arrested the same day a truck driver was convicted of storming Tree of Life, a Pittsburgh synagogue, in 2018 and killing 11 congregants in an act of antisemitic terror.

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Michigan man accused of planning to target synagogue is charged with threats