Amanda Guerra, NBCDFW.com
Pfc. Naser Abdo, an AWOL soldier who had weapons stashed in a motel room near Fort Hood, has admitted planning an attack on the Texas post, the Army said Thursday.
The FBI says bomb-making materials were found in the motel room of an AWOL Fort Campbell, Ky., soldier arrested near Fort Hood Wednesday.
Agency spokesman Erik Vasys said Thursday that firearms and "items that could be identified as bomb-making components, including gunpowder" were removed from 21-year-old Pfc. Naser Abdo's Killeen motel room.
The Army alert sent via email and obtained by The Associated Press said the man arrested by Killeen police "was in possession of a large quantity of ammunition, weapons and a bomb inside a backpack." Upon questioning, the alert said, he admitted to planning an attack on Fort Hood.
Vasys said the FBI will charge Abdo with possessing bomb-making components.
Abdo, who is from Garland, won conscientious objector status earlier this year after stating his Muslim religious beliefs would prevent him from fighting in any war. He told The Associated Press he became Muslim when he was 17.
Even with his CO status approved, the military has not been able to discharge Abdo because of an allegation that child pornography was found on his military computer. In June an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury, led to Abdo's court-martial recommendation.
Abdo then failed to report for duty on July 4.
Lawyer unaware Abdo was in Texas
James Branum, an Oklahoma attorney who represents Abdo in the conscientious objector claim and in defense of the child porn charges, said he hasn't heard from Abdo since he went AWOL, though he's repeatedly tried to reach him over the phone.
Branum said he learned from reporters that Abdo was in Texas and was arrested in Killeen on Thursday morning.
When asked if he was surprised to learn of the arrest, he said he had no comment.
"I've tried calling law enforcement, and no one is telling me where he is being held," said Branum.
Branum said Abdo was ready to prove his innocence on the child porn charges and that he planned to "plead not guilty and take it all the way."
Police offer few details about investigation
During a news conference Thursday, Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin revealed some information that led to Abdo's arrest, but declined to get too specific because the investigation is ongoing.
Baldwin said a report of suspicious activity was reported on Tuesday. An investigation was initiated, and on Wednesday Abdo was arrested on a warrant from the Fort Campbell provost marshal's office charging him with possession of obscene material and being AWOL.
During the investigation, suspicious material was found in Abdo's hotel room that led investigators to believe there was a credible threat to military personnel. Baldwin said he expects federal charges to be filed.
When asked if Abdo resisted during his arrest, Baldwin said "Given the response that we provided, he didn't really have a choice. He was taken down rather quickly, without incident."
Baldwin said they believe Abdo acted alone and that they are not aware of any additional threats to the people in the region. He added that if a gun store clerk hadn't alerted authorities to suspicious behavior, the press conference called Thursday might have had a very different subject matter.
The Army said Abdo had a bomb in his backpack, explosives materials in his motel room and had bought a uniform from a surplus store with Fort Hood unit patches.
The investigation was undertaken by the Killeen Police Department, FBI, ATF, U.S. Army CID Command, Joint Terrorism Task Force, McClennan County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad, Fort Hood EOD, Bell County District Attorney's Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Gun store clerk was suspicious
The gun store clerk who called police about Abdo said he noticed something was right as soon as Abdo arrived at Guns Galore.
"Initially, what kind of drew our attention to him as a patron was he showed up in a taxicab," Greg Ebert said. "That's kind of out of the norm."
Ebert grew more suspicious as the man made his way around the store. He bought three boxes of shotgun shells, a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol and 6 pounds of smokeless gun powder, paying about $250.
"What raised the first real red flag was when he stands here and asks the manager, 'What is smokeless powder?'” Ebert said. "Well, if you don't know what it is, why would you buy six pounds of it?"
“I didn't question him, but in the back of my mind, I'm making a note of it," he said.
Ebert said he called authorities as soon as the man left.
"I am ecstatic from the standpoint that, if we -- by calling the Killeen Police Department -- saved anybody from being injured or killed, have done the right thing," he said.
Abdo lived in North Texas before joining Army
Former neighbors of Abdo said they were shocked to hear that he is suspected of planning an attack on Fort Hood.
"It's scary to know we're so close to all this terrorism and things like this and ... child pornography -- that's scary, because this is a neighborhood of children," Yawonne Wilson said.
School records show that Abdo moved around before entering the Army. He attended high schools in Garland and Richardson. He has family in Garland and Plano.
Former neighbors said they knew his sister better, saying Abdo kept to himself.
"She had all these friends, and we'd always hang out at her house," Shakira Doss said.
Doss described her friend's brother as "kind of weird."
"We'd see him, and he'd be gone," she said.
Neighbors said they did not know that Abdo had Muslim religious views that would prevent him from fighting in a war.
Wilson said Abdo's mother is Christian, and Doss said his sister was not religious.
"She was more closer to her friends than her family, so it kind of doesn't surprise me," Doss said. "He'd be in his room all the time just locked up ... [behind] the door."
Neighbors of Abdo's relatives in Plano described him as an intelligent but bad kid when he was growing up. She said he always knew the right things to say to parents but was mean other kids his age.
No one answered the door Thursday at the Plano home, where a small U.S. flag is displayed next to the mailbox.
Abdo's family recently moved, and his mother still lives in Garland. Her neighbors said they had seen Abdo in the neighborhood in the past several weeks.
His parents are divorced. Neighbors said his father, who is of Palestinian descent, lived in Plano but was deported last year after serving five years in state prison for sexual assault of a child.
Abdo is currently being held at the Killeen City Jail. He is expected to be transferred into federal custody.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nadal Hasan, a military psychologist, shot and killed 13 people at the Texas base and wounded 30 others. He is currently standing trail, facing the death penalty.
NBC 5's Amanda Guerra, Ken Kalthoff, Ellen Goldberg and The Associated Press' Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.