Court documents detail evidence against 19-year-old Michigan man accused of plotting mass killing

Guns, knives, other weapons recovered from Pickford home

Criminal complaint filed against 19-year-old Michigan man and the FBI logo. (WDIV)

PICKFORD, Mich. – Recently-filed court documents detail the evidence the FBI collected against a 19-year-old Michigan man who is accused of plotting a mass killing at an East Lansing synagogue.

On June 13, the FBI received a report that someone had been exchanging messages on social media that included neo-Nazi ideology and threats. The FBI identified that person as 19-year-old Seann Patrick Pietila from Pickford, located in the Upper Peninsula.

Pietila was arrested on June 16. He told the FBI that he moved to Pickford one week before his arrest. Before that, he was living with his mother in East Lansing near the Michigan State University campus. The FBI believes he was living in East Lansing when he discussed the mass killing plot online.

Messages sent through social media

According to court documents filed by the FBI, Pietila exchanged a number of concerning Instagram messages with multiple users.

The FBI agent who wrote the criminal complaint states that Pietila, “has communicated neo-Nazi ideology, antisemitism, suicidal ideologies, glorification of past mass shooters (that advocate similar ideology), and a desire and his intent to mimic past mass shooters/mass casualty incidents.”

The first conversation shown in the court documents is between Pietila and who he believed to be a 16-year-old boy from New Zealand. Pietila and the 16-year-old had been talking since at least November 2022.

“Pietila exchanged messages with [the 16-year-old] and advised he acted in an enabling manner during the conversations to facilitate the additional conversations about committing mass casualty incidents or mass killings,” the document said.

On June 1, Pietila sent a message to the 16-year-old that included the following: “I’m gonna start making plans soon, just gotta buy a few more things.” The 16-year-old “liked” that message.

Later in the conversation, Pietila said, “I just need a camera for streaming and some more magazines. Don’t wanna run out of mags and have to reload one.” The 16-year-old also “liked” that message.

At one point, the New Zealand teen asked Pietila, “What will you be writing on your guns bro?” Pietila responded, “I don’t know yet. I already have some white paint I bought lol. All I know is, it’s not just gonna be a copy of [the New Zealand mass shooter]. Maybe some stuff but I gotta make it unique.”

In 2019, a mass shooter opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people and injuring dozens more.

The conversation continued and on June 2, Pietila sent a message that reads, in part, “I haven’t put much thought in it yet. But I’m gonna tonight, I’ll start putting stuff in my notes app. Then I’ll send you it when it’s done just gotta check how much I would even be able to fit on my rifle.”

Mass killing plot planned on anniversary of New Zealand shooting

A note found on a 19-year-old Michigan man's phone. The man is accused of plotting to attack an East Lansing synagogue. The image comes from a criminal complaint filed on June 16, 2023. (WDIV)

A note found on Pietila’s phone named a particular synagogue as his target and a date for his planned attack.

The note contained the following text:

“Shaarey Zedek Congreation

March 15, 2024

Me and Limey

Equipment: hand-made pipe bombs, molotovs, Two stag-15s, 12 gauge shotgun and two back up Glock 18′s and a Akm full auto conversion

Good morning sweetheart, I hope you slept well. Do you still hate me??”

The FBI said Sharrey Zedek is a synagogue located in East Lansing, Michigan.

The court documents reveal that Pietila said he searched the location of Shaarey Zedek Congregation and that the original date noted on his iPhone was March 15, 2023, but he later changed the year to 2024. Pietila identified “Limey” as the teen from New Zealand he had been messaging on social media.

Pietila told the FBI that March 15 is the anniversary of a deadly shooting in New Zealand. On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist killed 51 people and injured 40 others in the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand’s history.

The New Zealand shooter live streamed the attack on Facebook. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Messages Pietila sent on social media indicated that he planned on live streaming his attack. He wrote, “all I know is, it’s not just gonna be a copy of [the New Zealand mass shooter].”

FBI executes search warrant at Pickford home

On June 16, the FBI executed a search warrant at Pietila’s Pickford home.

Pietila was inside the home during the search. He was arrested and transported to the Chippewa County Correctional Facility in Sault Saint Marie.

According to the documents, the FBI interviewed Pietila and he admitted that the Instagram account was his. He also said he used numerous other social media usernames with similar names.

According to the documents, the FBI found the following items inside his Pickford home:

  • .40 caliber pistol ammunition
  • .22 caliber ammunition
  • 12-gauge shotgun ammunition
  • 12-gauge shotgun
  • 22. caliber rifle
  • Sig Sauer .40 caliber pistol
  • .223 rifle magazines
  • Apple iPhone 11
  • Various knives and bladed instruments
  • Scopes and firearms accessories
  • Camouflage tactical vest
  • Black tactical vest
  • Black skull masks
  • Red and white Nazi flag
  • Ghillie suit
  • Gas masks
  • Military sniper/survival manuals

The firearms were not secured or locked in a storage box, they were “freely accessible to anyone in the residence,” authorities said. Pietila reportedly told the FBI that he didn’t intend to follow through on his mass killing plans.

The FBI is requesting he be charged for violating 18 U.S. Code § 875, under which it is illegal to engage in “interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another.”

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.