Chapter 93: The 'Lone Wolf'

William 'Jameel' Chrisman
I slept soundly in the country air and felt somewhat refreshed when Holmes roused me on Saturday morning. After breakfast, we made our way to the hotel's small conference room, where Holmes introduced me to Fred.

"It's a pleasure, Dr. Watson," he said.

"And the same to you," I replied. "Holmes has told me something about what you've been discussing with him, and I have been very interested. So if you don't mind, I would like to stay for a --"

"Yes, of course!" said Fred. "I am  honoured to have you along. I've been looking over various case histories with Mr. Holmes, and I would like to continue doing that for just one more session, gentlemen. I don't want to get mired in too many details, but I think it might be worthwhile to look closely at one more sequence of events."

"It's your call," said Holmes. "I am at your service."

I nodded and Fred continued, "This story concerns William Chrisman, who ran afoul of the law in Camden, New Jersey. He was convicted of armed robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle, and went to prison. There he converted to Islam and began using the name 'Jameel.'

"Chrisman claims he volunteered to help the FBI catch terrorists. The FBI agent who appears to have been his handler testified that he was paid thousands of dollars. In any event, in the fall of 2006, Chrisman was sent by the FBI from Buffalo, New York, to Rockford, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Chrisman's task was to entrap a fellow Muslim, a man by the name of Derrick Shareef.

"Shareef was working in a video store, but had no place to live, and was about to move in with the store manager when Chrisman arrived. Chrisman gave Shareef the old song and dance that goes, 'I'm a Muslim, you're a Muslim, I can help you, come live with me,' and Shareef gobbled it all up. Shareef agreed to move in with Chrisman, his three wives, and their nine children, on the day the two men met."

"So Chrisman moved a family of twelve from one city to another voluntarily, in order to help the FBI?" asked Holmes. "How could he afford to do that? Where did they live?"

"We have to assume the FBI was paying all Chrisman's expenses," replied Fred. "We have evidence that the FBI bought the house for Chrisman and his family -- and Shareef, of course -- to live in.

Derrick Shareef
"From that day forward, Shareef lived in Chrisman's house, and, without his knowledge, Chrisman recorded all their conversations. Snippets taken from the recordings formed the basis for an affidavit filed by the FBI when charges were laid against Shareef later. But even as edited by the FBI, the transcripts reveal Chrisman leading Shareef into one action after another.

"Within six weeks, according to Chrisman, they had 'written and recorded' their martyrdom videos. To an outside observer, it is doubtful whether Shareef ever wrote anything.

"From Shareef's point of view, Chrisman may have been a gift from Allah, shielding him from homelessness. But for Chrisman, having his mark living right in his home gave him considerable leverage. And once Chrisman had Shareef's martyrdom video, he had even more influence over his target.

"They talked about doing something violent, Chrisman suggesting possible targets, Shareef offering semi-tough talk in support. As time passed, the transcripts suggest, Chrisman became more and more impatient, while Shareef became more and more reluctant.

"As December approached, Chrisman suggested attacking Cherry Vale Mall, a shopping centre in Rockford. Chrisman suggested using grenades in the attack. Chrisman suggested they do it on the Friday before Christmas, to produce the greatest possible number of casualties. Shareef went along with all this talk, but his one contribution to the plan seems to have been the idea that the grenades should be detonated inside garbage cans."

"Why would anybody want to do that?" asked Holmes.

"According to the transcripts," replied Fred, "Shareef wanted to set the timers, toss the grenades into a garbage can, and walk away."

"What timers?" asked Holmes.

"Chrisman had convinced Shareef that he could buy grenades with timers that would explode as long as fifteen seconds after their pins were pulled. Shareef appeared to be satisfied with the explanation, and he went along with more of Chrisman's plan. Twice they went out to case the mall, Chrisman driving them there in his own car, because Shareef didn't have one. They walked around the mall and talked about their potential attack, with Chrisman sketching out the details, and Shareef muttering his approval.

"Then Chrisman started getting phone calls from an 'arms dealer' who said he could sell them the grenades they would need for the attack. Chrisman wouldn't dare buy the grenades himself, unless he wanted to fall into the trap he was setting for Shareef. So he prodded Shareef to come up with some cash for these grenades they needed to attack the mall. 

"Shareef, of course, didn't know that the 'arms dealer' was also working for the FBI. But he appears to have started dragging his feet, in any case, claiming he couldn't marshal the necessary cash to buy the weapons.

"Eventually, Chrisman's 'arms dealer' agreed to accept a pair of stereo speakers in exchange for a box containing four grenades, a handgun, and some ammunition. The grenades were non-functional, and the bullets were duds, but Shareef didn't know that. So the entire transaction was in harmony with its context. Shareef's gift from Allah was phony; the arms dealer was phony; the grenades were phony; and the bullets were phony.

"The 'arms deal' as set up between Chrisman and the 'arms dealer' went ahead as planned. Chrisman and Shareef drove to the appointed spot in Chrisman's car, stopping along the way to pick up Shareef's speakers, according to the affidavit.

"But this brings up an interesting question: Where were the speakers? Why would a man one step from homelessness keep his speakers in a place other than where he lived? Did he borrow the speakers? Or did he steal them? We really don't know. But in any event, Shareef picked up a pair of speakers and he and Chrisman proceeded to the parking lot where the 'arms deal' was to occur.

"There Chrisman took Shareef to meet the 'arms dealer,' who took the speakers and gave Shareef the box containing the grenades and the handgun. Chrisman melted away while Shareef carried the box to Chrisman's car and put it in the trunk. Then FBI agents, who had been watching the entire charade, converged on Shareef.

"There's much more to it," said Fred, "but I must pause to point out one of the most remarkable aspects of this case. Chrisman has been written out of the story. Derrick Shareef's name turns up regularly in compilations of 'terror plots foiled,' but he is often referred to as a 'lone wolf.' If not, the text will say, 'Shareef reportedly acted alone.'

"But he wasn't working alone! He was no 'lone wolf.' He was every inch the follower in this two-man so-called 'terror plot,' an idiotic plan of attack which would never have come into existence at all without Chrisman leading the way. Some gift from Allah! Some lone wolf!"