In ‘very peaceful’ neighborhood, terror suspect’s brother and family surprised by arrest

by in News

When a dozen FBI agents showed up at James’ Domingo’s Reseda home on Friday he found himself scared and struggling to process the fate of his older brother, who within moments was in federal custody.

For months, he believed his brother Mark had found “a bit” of guidance in a life that needed it.

Mark Steven Domingo, 26, had converted to Islam, and was attending a mosque not far away. It was a “good thing,” James Domingo said of his brother, who lived at the house with his brother, their aunt and grandmother for most of their lives.

“I thought maybe my brother finally found some sort of guidance in this world,” James, 22, said of his brother. “Like anybody else, I don’t want to assume a thing when someone is going into a new religion.”

RELATED STORY: FBI says Army veteran planned to bomb Long Beach rally in terrorism plot foiled by undercover operation

But on Monday, federal authorities said Mark Domingo, 26, a former U.S. Army infantryman who served in Afghanistan, was arrested Friday after receiving what he thought was a bomb. It was, in fact, an inert device given to him by an undercover law enforcement officer. Officials believe Mark Domingo was plotting to carry out a domestic terrorist bombing during a rally in Long Beach that never materialized.

Authorities said he had converted to Islam and had planned retribution for the recent New Zealand mosque attacks. According to a federal affidavit, Domingo made a series of online posts and had a series of discussions with an FBI informant describing “his support for violent jihad and his aspiration to conduct an attack in the Los Angeles area.”

Officials said they began seeing signs of Mark Domingo’s radicalization within the last month, based on messages on internet chatrooms.

The charges were a huge hit to James Domingo, who was struggling to understand how his older brother — a man who said he always cared about him — could be charged by federal authorities.

He said FBI officers were polite when they surrounded their house on Friday and asked the family members to comply.

“The whole thing is surprising to the Domingo family and all the relatives,” he said as he stood outside his Reseda house, clutching a letter his family wrote, asking reporters to respect family’s privacy. “We complied and they came in and searched the house.”

According to the affidavit, Mark Domingo fantasized about killing his next door neighbor, but he struggled to pinpoint a target or develop a plan.

James Domingo said he was not aware of any disputes his brother could have had with their neighbors.

“We are a quiet family and this is a peaceful neighborhood,” he said. “We have good respectful neighbors.”

Mark Domingo needed “a bit” of guidance, but he wouldn’t elaborate. Ultimately, he found a nearby mosque on Sherman Way, where he converted, his brother said.

Nataly Lopez, 24, a neighbor who lives a few blocks away from Domingo’s home on White Oak Avenue in Reseda, said she was shocked to find out that her neighbor was arrested.

“It’s a very quiet street and nothing ever happens,” she said. “In the years we have lived here, we never had any incidents, and it’s pretty shocking.”

Another woman who answered at a home nearby declined to giver her name, but added that she was concerned to find out Mark Domingo was charged with such a serious crime.

In a letter to the public, the Domingo family wrote that they were “surprised” to see Mark Domingo’s arrest.

“We have family members who are ill right now and require our full attention and care,” according to the letter.

Asked if he believed his brother became interested in arms while serving in Afghanistan, James said he would “wait for the evidence to be laid out on the table” before making any conclusions.

“I hope this dies down eventually and hopefully my brother will be found innocent of this,” he said.