Illinois teen contacted Islamic terror group, plotted jihad attack


Just another mental disorder. Source: Illinois teen accused of plotting terrorist attack

Authorities arrested an 18-year-old southern Illinois man who they allege had communicated with an unspecified terrorist group about a plan to an attack on at least one area location.

Keaun L. Cook, of Godfrey, was arrested Wednesday on preliminary charges of providing material support for terrorism and making a terrorist threat. He was being held at the Madison County jail on $150,000 bond and didn’t have a lawyer as of Friday morning.

At a news conference Thursday, Madison County’s state’s attorney, Tom Gibbons, described Cook as a dangerous man who had deliberate plan to cause a “mass casualty event” at one or more locations in the county. He declined to specify which terrorist group Cook had allegedly been in contact with, but said they weren’t local. He also wouldn’t give the locations of any planned attacks, but said police departments and individuals at those locations were notified after authorities first learned of the threat.

County Sheriff John Lakin said authorities learned of the threat Aug. 24 when deputies did a welfare check at the home of Cook’s grandmother, who has looked after him since his mother died unexpectedly of an illness in 2011. Gibbons said someone then reported the verbal threats.

Although investigators found no dangerous materials or firearms in the home, Lakin said he thinks there was a “strong possibility he could have carried it out alone.”

“I’m very proud to stand here today and say that we stopped an event that could have caused a very, very, very serious situation,” Lakin said.

Cook’s grandmother, Debra Thomas, hand-delivered two letters to The (Alton) Telegraph ( ) on Thursday. In them, she wrote that her grandson struggles with paranoid schizophrenia and that he had spent more than 300 days in isolated confinement at a county detention center, during which his condition went untreated.

She wrote that after he got out and returned home, she couldn’t force him to take his medication because he is 18 and an adult. She said she called the police, “not because that I felt a threat but because I knew that was the only way that I could get Keaun treatment.”

More: Terror suspect is mentally ill, grandmother says

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons viewed images on the Facebook page and, with investigators from the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, determined that Cook had made threats to the safety of the general public and had contacted a terrorist organization.

The threat, Gibbons said, was that Cook “would carry out mass casualties at multiple sites.”

Gibbons’ said his office is asking that Cook not be allowed to post bond.

Bail for Cook was set Thursday at $150,000, meaning he could be released on bond by posting the required 10 percent in cash — $15,000.

Gibbons said Friday he is asking that Cook be required to post the full $150,000, or that his bond be revoked.

“That will stop any easy release,” Gibbons said.

The prosecutor said he expects a judge will rule soon on his request.

A Facebook page that appears to be for Cook contains a link to a news story about an ISIS beheading. The Facebook user’s comment on the link, which included a graphic photo, was, “American feast.”

There didn’t appear to be any other explicit mentions of terrorism on the Facebook page.

Authorities on Friday still weren’t releasing many details about the allegations against Cook.

Gibbons on Friday said Cook “was in contact with a terrorist organization,” but “there were not any bomb materials recovered.”

Gibbons said the threat was verbal, but that Cook had been in communication with a terrorist organization via multiple electronic means. He would not go into further specifics and would not name the organization to which Cook had been linked.

Sheriff John Lakin said they first became aware of the threat on Aug. 24 after deputies from his department were dispatched to Cook’s home in Godfrey for a welfare check. In meeting with Cook and his family members, deputies developed evidence linking Cook to possible regional terrorist threats.

Preliminary investigation confirmed that Cook has been in contact with individuals he believed would be capable of committing a mass casualty terrorist attack, according to authorities. Federal authorities were brought in to assist in the investigation.

Thomas, 56, the grandmother, provided a reporter with copies of Madison County Circuit Court documents where his public defender testified during a hearing in September that Cook was suffering from a mental disorder connected to the death of his mother.

“There is no question his criminal history is terrible,” the attorney said, “It is very clear that Keaun is not going to get any better until he deals with the grief from his mother’s death…it triggered his criminal behavior. It has triggered his downfall.”

Thomas, who said her grandson had prior arrests and convictions for retail theft, said that when he was 17, Cook was sentenced to the Madison County juvenile justice system and held basically in solitary confinement for 18 months.

“You know what that does to a person,” she said, adding that he had been in and out of the juvenile justice system a half dozen times.

“I believe the Madison County juvenile justice system has failed me and my grandson,” Thomas said.

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