A man who was convicted of firing several shots inside a Salisbury restaurant 18 years ago is now a center of national attention over allegations that he supports the Islamic movement known as ISIS.
Donald Ray Morgan, 44, was arrested Aug. 2 at JFK International Airport in New York City, after landing on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany, according to federal court papers.
In an Aug. 4 court hearing, federal prosecutors accused Morgan of being in possession of a firearm. As a convicted felon, Morgan is not permitted to have a gun.
The case gained national attention because, according to the New York Daily News, prosecutors argued in a Brooklyn federal courtroom that Morgan is a supporter of the Islamic State, a movement also known as ISIS. According to several published and broadcast reports, Morgan gained the attention of federal authorities by posting numerous tweets supporting ISIS on his now deleted Twitter account, under the name Abu Omar al-Amreeki.
Morgan had spent the past eight months in Lebanon, where his Lebanese-born wife lives.
ISIS has led an insurrection in parts of Syria and Iraq, trying to install a fundamentalist Islamic government in that part of the Middle East. The United States has been conducting limited airstrikes against ISIS forces in support of religious minority groups being attacked by the Islamist organization.
According to the New York Daily News story, federal prosecutors said Morgan referred to himself in the tweets as a jihad fighter.
CNN said federal officials do not believe Morgan is involved in any active plots but is a supporter of ISIS.
The court documents, filed through the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro, do not mention any connection between Morgan and Islamic groups in the Middle East. But the Daily News reported that Chief Magistrate Steven Gold denied bond for Morgan because his tweets had “clearly implied to me that he is trying to go to Syria or Iraq.”
Gold ordered Morgan held without bond and moved to Greensboro, where he will face the federal firearms charge.
A check of the Guilford County Jail in Greensboro on Wednesday showed that Morgan is not listed as an inmate.
Morgan was 26 years old when he was accused of firing several shots inside a restaurant in Salisbury in the summer of 1996. North Carolina court records show he was convicted of discharging a firearm into occupied property and sentenced to 39 months in prison. Records show he served 25 months at a state prison in Hoke County before being released in 1999. The Observer’s Maria David contributed.