Former sheriff's deputy Don Morgan was arrested at JFK International Airport in August. He was arrested by the FBI on a warrant for an illegal gun sale charge. When authorities asked Morgan where he was returning from, he admitted he’d been in the Middle East trying to join forces with the Islamic State, or ISIS.
“It was planned,” Morgan said of his intentions to join ISIS. “I purchased the ticket with the intent of entering to Syria, either joining up with medical and food aid convoys or directly with Islamic State.”
In an in-depth piece, a team of NBC writers detailed Morgan’s descent into radicalism. His troubles started when he failed to pass National Guard boot camp as a young man. With his military aspirations squashed, he became a sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina. After 18 months on the job, he was fired. In the time after his termination, Morgan lived a life full of partying, fighting and crime.
That lifestyle culminated in a two year prison sentence after Morgan fired a gun in a crowded restaurant. A year after his release from prison, he converted to Islam.
Morgan’s newfound faith wasn’t a big part of his life at first. Then, in 2012, something changed. Friends noticed he started posting extreme things on Facebook. He talked of infidels and holy wars. In January of 2013, Morgan created a twitter account in which he self-identified as a mujahid, or holy warrior. On June 29, 2014, he officially pledged his allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He then flew overseas in hopes of joining al-Baghdadi's regime.
Morgan never made it to Syria. He tried to enter the country via Turkey, but authorities at an airport in Istanbul turned him away. He headed to Lebanon soon after, but returned to the United States after running out of money.
Morgan explained to NBC why he chose to support ISIS.
“My reason for the support of ISIS is because they’ve proven time and time again to put Islamic law as the priority and the establishment of an Islamic state as the goal,” he said. His decision to try to join ISIS came after “months and months and months of asking Allah to guide me or to give me the answers I needed.”
Morgan denies he is an extremist.
“I would not classify myself as a radical, but by western definition I would be classified as a radical,” he said. “I just consider myself to be a practicing Muslim.”
It’s not clear what Morgan’s fate will be now that he’s back in the U.S. He’ll be in court for his illegal gun sale charge, but his attempt to join ISIS is not explicitly criminal – especially since he never succeeded in joining the group. Morgan has a hunch about what prosecutors will try to charge him with, though.
“…there’s a strong possibility that they’ll charge me with supporting terrorist organizations and with supporting terrorist activities,” he said.
Source: NBC News