Heights man who made church threat sentenced to five years for gun charges

By ZEINAB NAJM Times-Herald Newspapers HEIGHTS — A Dearborn Heights man who allegedly pledged his support for ISIS was sentenced to five years in prison on two gun charges on April 6. Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 22, appeared in front of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge George Caram Steeh for his sentencing which also included three years of supervised release. Steeh requested that Abu-Rayyan undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment because he “smoked 10 to 15 blunts each day.” Prosecutors had asked the judge for an eight-year sentence and Abu-Rayyan’s attorney, Todd Shanker, sought a 15-month sentence. Abu-Rayyan read a statement to his family where he apologized for what he had done to them, to the image of Islam and that he had since matured following his arrest. According to an FBI affidavit in the complaint, Abu-Rayyan had been under FBI surveillance since May 2015, after photos and posts were found on his social media accounts declaring his support of ISIS. The FBI said Abu-Rayyan on two occasions lied while filling out federal ATF Form 4473 to purchase firearms, when he checked “no” to the question asking whether he is an unlawful user of a controlled substance. The first occurrence happened when Abu-Rayyan purchased a .22-caliber revolver from a sporting goods store in Dearborn Heights Oct. 5, 2015, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan. Abu-Rayyan was pulled over Oct. 7 in Detroit for speeding and was arrested when police found marijuana and the unlicensed weapon in the vehicle, the statement said. The second occurrence came when Abu-Rayyan attempted to purchase a second firearm Nov. 15, 2015, at a different sporting goods store, but was unsuccessful due to the pending state weapons charges. Steeh said Abu-Rayyan posed a danger to others, was known to practice shooing at the firing range and also threatened to shoot a police officer and people at Greater Grace Temple church in Detroit. Abu-Rayyan also previously expressed his support for ISIS which included having a photo of an ISIS member holding the severed head of a woman as his cell phone background. Steeh said Abu-Rayyan had tweeted a photo of himself holding a gun similar to an AK47 with the caption “sawat hunting.” That term is know to mean “Iraqis who oppose ISIS,” Steeh explained. Shanker argued that the gun purchases were made by Abu-Rayyan for protection when he worked at his father’s pizza place in Detroit where other employees were robbed. Also, Shanker said that two FBI undercover agents posing as a female forced Abu-Rayyan into making radical statements because he was trying to impress her. Shanker told the judge that during the time messages were exchanged between the FBI and Abu-Rayyan was addicted to marijuana, depressed and lonely so he was manipulated. Steeh said the radical statements made by Abu-Rayyan began a year before the FBI started having conversations including that Abu-Rayyan wanted to “die for the sake of Allah.” (Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)