There is no predictable timeframe from when a homegrown violent extremist (HVE) radicalizes to when they act out violently, underscoring the need for public education campaigns to assist in identifying behavior changes indicative of radicalization. An NJOHSP review of publicly available records indicate since 2015, HVEs have carried out 18 attacks on various targets across the United States and the radicalization timeline ranged from weeks to nine years before conducting an operation.
Family members, peers, and close contacts may be the first to notice radical shifts in behavior and attitude, as well as unusual Internet activity. According to Western media reports, Islamic extremists “leak” their violent intentions to friends, relatives, or other associates 71 percent of the time, compared to 53 percent of right-wing extremists, such as neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
- In May, Gregory Lepsky from Point Pleasant (Ocean County) was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. A family member had contacted the Point Pleasant police after noticing a change in Lepsky’s behavior in December, stating he began expressing radical Islamic rhetoric in his text messages and social media posts. In one message, Lepsky stated, “Allah (the most exalted) commands us Muslims to fight against the desbelivers [sic] until there is none left!”
- We encourage all partners to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement and to NJOHSP’s Counterterrorism Watch by calling 866-4-SAFE-NJ (866-472-3365) or e-mailing email@example.com.
HVE Case Studies
In September 2016, bombs left by Ahmad Khan Rahimi exploded in Seaside Park (Ocean County), Elizabeth (Union County) and New York City, injuring 31. He was arrested in Linden (Union County) after a shootout with police. Rahimi displayed radical viewpoints to family members after trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2011 and 2013. Although Rahimi’s father reported his son to local law enforcement, leading to a federal investigation, he later recanted his concerns about Rahimi’s behavior.
- Rahimi radicalized over at least two years and demonstrated violent behavior toward family members.
In May 2015, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi attacked the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, during a “draw the Prophet Muhammad” contest, wounding one. Prior to the attack, Simpson tweeted he and Soofi had pledged allegiance to “amirul Mu’mineen,” referring to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The FBI had surveilled Simpson since at least 2007 and arrested him in 2010. He was found guilty of making a false statement regarding his travel to Somalia to engage in “violent jihad” and was sentenced to three years probation.
- Simpson radicalized over at least eight years, displaying multiple signs of radicalization, such as encouraging friends to participate in his cause and sharing his ideologies in person and online.