On June 1, 2009, a Tennessee man born Carlos Bledsoe — but who changed his name to Abdul Hakim Muhammad — walked up to a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, and opened fire. He killed a 23-year-old private named William Long and wounded another man, Private Quinton Ezeagwula, who was eighteen. At the time of the shooting, Muhammad was under investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for having traveled to Yemen, where he spent time in prison.
According to police reports, after the shooting Muhammad waved his Miranda rights, and on video “stated that he was a practicing Muslim … [and] that he was mad at the U.S. military because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.” According to a detective on the case, Tommy Hudson, Muhammad said that he had “fired several rounds at the soldiers with the intent of killing them.”
He pleaded not guilty.
Last week, on January 12, this same man sat down and wrote a letter to the judge presiding over his capital murder case. Abdul Hakim Muhammad asked that the judge change his plea to guilty. In the letter, Muhammad says he was trained in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the same group believed to have trained Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day.
Abdul Hakim Muhammad told the judge:
My lawyer has no defense. … I wasn’t insane or post-traumatic nor was I forced to do this act. Which I believe and it is justified according to Islamic laws and the Islamic religion jihad — to fight those who wage war on Islam and Muslims.
Muhammad’s father, Melvin Bledsoe, told the New York Times that he does not believe his son has ties to al-Qaeda. This despite the fact that in the fall of 2007, his son went to Yemen, where he lived for 16 months. He married a woman from Yemen and was imprisoned for using a false passport. Sometime after his release from the Yemeni prison he returned to America, where the JTTF picked up his trail.
In his interview with the Times, Melvin Beldsoe “suggested that [his son] might be trying to link himself to al-Qaeda because he believes it will lead to his execution and make him a martyr.” Bledsoe said he considers his son “unable to process” reality and that he has been “brainwashed.”