Judge calls man accused of plotting mass shooting in Jacksonville ‘serious, serious danger'

By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax

Updated:

The man accused of plotting a mass shooting at a Jacksonville Islamic center will stay in federal custody.

At 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Judge Joel Toomey decided not to release Bernandino Bolatete, denying his attorney’s request that he be let out on bond.

Toomey called Bolatete a “serious, serious danger” to our community.

Bolatete’s criminal complaint said he repeatedly told an undercover officer that he intended to carry out a mass shooting at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. 

The 69-year-old was arrested on Dec. 1 and is facing a federal charge for possessing an unregistered firearm silencer. 

The FBI said a civil rights investigation is underway and Bolatete could face more charges.

Prosecutor Michael Coolican, with the U.S. attorney’s office,  said in court on Tuesday that FBI agents found 2,500 rounds of ammunition in Bolatete’s room.

Coolican said FBI agents also found 12 guns in his room, in his car and on his person the day of his arrest.

Coolican argued that Bolatete must remain behind bars because he “had a death wish.”

Bolatete’s criminal complaint said he told an undercover officer that he was in kidney failure, did not have long to live and intended to die in a shootout with police at the mosque.

Coolican also argued that Bolatete is a flight risk because he is not a U.S. citizen and still has family in the Philippines.

Chained at the wrists and ankles, Bolatete repeatedly shook his head as Coolican spoke to the judge.

Bolatete’s public defender Mark Rosenblum told the judge that his client’s talk with an undercover detective was “just talk.”

“There are no dead bodies. There are no dead Muslims,” said Rosenblum. “All that we have is talk, but no action.” 

Rosenblum called Bolatete’s brother and sister as witnesses, who both tried to convince the judge that it would be safe to let Bolatete out on bond.

They both told the judge that their brother was not a threat to the community and would not be a flight risk.

They also told the judge they would make sure he complied with the court’s orders.

Ultimately, the judge was unconvinced.

“It’s a serious charge, but we respect what the judge says, you know, we’ll just follow what he said,” said the suspect’s brother, Pedro Bolatete.

Bernandino Bolatete is due back in court on Dec. 12 for his preliminary hearing.

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