Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. News

FBI arrests Seminole man for threatening Pinellas mosque — and leaving his name

SEMINOLE — The voicemail was left at the Islamic Society of Pinellas County at 6:35 p.m. Friday. The caller was incensed by the terror attacks that killed 129 and injured hundreds in Paris that day.

The FBI said the caller claimed he was "going to personally have a militia … come down to … firebomb you (and) shoot whoever is there."

And then, he left his name.

The FBI arrested Martin Alan Schnitzler, 43, on Tuesday on a federal charge of making a telephonic threat to kill, injure or intimidate using fire or an explosive.

If convicted, Schnitzler, who lives in Seminole, could face up to 10 years in prison.

Federal authorities said they obtained the voicemail from the Islamic Center and the cellphone number from its caller ID system.

The FBI called Schnitzler on Saturday, and he agreed to speak to FBI agents at his Largo business. When they met, Schnitzler said he was "very mad" about the terrorist attacks in France, which the Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed responsibility for.

So, Schnitzler said he searched the Internet for "Islam" and "Pinellas County."

Then, he called the phone numbers that came up, according to the FBI.

Federal authorities have said they're investigating threatening voicemails left at two mosques over the weekend: the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County in Pinellas Park.

Authorities said the voicemails were left by the same person. But Tuesday's arrest was only in connection to the threat made to the Pinellas Park mosque.

"The man clearly made a threat of terrorism to members of the Muslim-American community, and we're grateful that law enforcement took the appropriate action," said Hassan Shibly, executive director for the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Hopefully, this will send a strong message that such threats of terrorist violence will not be taken lightly."

At Schnitzler's well-tended condominium complex in west Seminole, several surprised neighbors who declined to be named described him as a polite man who tended to keep to himself. One said he went by "Marty."

A yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbon hung on his door. An American flag sticker was placed on the window.

After his arrest Tuesday, a U.S. magistrate ordered that Schnitzler be freed after he posted $10,000 bail and agreed to stay 1,000 feet away from any mosque or Islamic meeting place.

Times staff writers Claire McNeill and Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement