Rochester bar owner speaks out about thwarted attack

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — Emmanuel Lutchman may have been just days away from walking into this bar in Rochester with a ski mask and machete when he was picked up by federal authorities, who said the 25-year-old was plotting to kill Americans in the name of ISIS.

The news came as a surprise for people like Robert Downs, of Webster, a patron of Merchants Grill and the nearby bowling alley.

“I was shocked initially when I saw the picture and I recognized him, seeing him out front of the bowling alley and out front of Merchants,” Downs said. “I’ve seen him panhandling, so I just assumed him to be harmless.”

According to the federal complaint against him, Lutchman bought two black ski masks, zip-ties, two knives, a machete, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves in preparation for the attack. The complaint says Lutchman was talking with a purported member of ISIS in Syria, telling him he wanted join the terrorists, and that he hated Americans. That person told Lutchman if he killed Americans, he’d be accepted into ISIS.

John Page, who co-owns Merchants Grill, described Lutchman as a panhandler who took an aggressive approach.

“All the businesses on this street have interacted with him,” Page said. “He’s a panhandler, so he’s been in panhandling and we’ve asked him to leave several times.”

The arrest and subsequent threat was enough for authorities to cancel some of the New Years Eve events that were scheduled for last night.

That had local residents and people who have seen and even interacted with Emmanuel Lutchman, upset.

“I shook my head, I understood the reasoning behind it,” said Joe Louis, who’s been going to Merchants for 12 years, “but you never want them to get the upper hand.”

This is the second person from Rochester considered a lone wolf. Just two weeks ago, Mufid Elfgeeh pleaded guilty to the same charges of trying to help provide support to ISIS. Elfgeeh is set to be sentenced later this year.

“These are individuals that are disaffected,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York. “In the case in Rochester, some mental illness, who are encouraged by ISIS over the internet to do dastardly acts.”

Other patrons at Merchants Grill said if Lutchman would have tried to carry out an attack, he likely wouldn’t have gotten very far because many of them carry firearms. And they said they would be quick to defend themselves and their bar.

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