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UPDATE: Suspect in recruiting center shooting pleads 'not guilty'

By By Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press

This article was originally published June 2, 2009 at 8:35 a.m. Updated June 2, 2009 at 5:56 p.m.

Abdulhakim Muhammad, 23, of Little Rock, right, listens as his attorney Stephen Thomas enters a not guilty plea to a capital murder charge in a Little Rock, Ark., courtroom Tuesday.

Drive-by kills one

Two recruiters were shot, one of who later died at the hospital, on Monday morning.

— A Muslim convert who pleaded not guilty to killing a soldier outside a recruiting center had the firepower to take out many more while on a mission to "kill as many people in the Army as he could," police said.

In documents released Tuesday, authorities said they recovered Molotov cocktails, three guns and ammunition from Abdulhakim Muhammad's pickup after the attack Monday in a suburban Little Rock shopping center that left Pvt. William Long dead and Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula wounded.

Muhammad targeted soldiers "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past," authorities said. Both Long, 23, and Ezeagwula, 18, had recently completed basic training and had never seen combat. They had volunteered to help attract others into military service, and were shot as they stood outside the recruiting center smoking cigarettes.

On Tuesday, Muhammad, also 23, pleaded not guilty to one count of capital murder and 16 counts of committing a terrorist act. He is being held without bond. Federal prosecutors are also considering charges.

Police stopped Muhammad moments after the shootings on a highway.

Search warrant affidavits showed that police recovered weapons and caches of ammunition from Muhammad's truck and apartment. Officers confiscated an SKS assault rifle believed to be used in the shootings, a .22-caliber rifle with a laser sight, other firearms, Molotov cocktails, homemade silencers and compact disks with Arabic writing on them.

The truck also held a plastic tub filled with bottles of water, "canned food, boxed food, bagged food and a butane lighter" and a golf score card.

Once in custody, one affidavit said, Muhammad told officers what he had wanted to accomplish.

"Mr. Muhammad ... advised that his intent was to kill as many people in the Army as he could," according to Little Rock police Detective Robert A. Martin.

During the court proceeding Tuesday, Deputy Prosecutor Scott Duncan said Muhammad told investigators that "he would have killed more soldiers had they been in the parking lot." Duncan said Muhammad admitted shooting the soldiers "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

Muhammad had been under investigation by an FBI-led terrorism task force since he returned to the United States from Yemen last year, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official said Muhammad had been arrested and jailed in Yemen at some point for using a Somali passport. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, spoke on condition of anonymity.

An FBI spokesman in Little Rock did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Muhammad, formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe, had moved to Little Rock this spring as his father, Melvin Bledsoe of Memphis, expanded a tour bus company. Muhammad was one of the drivers and served clients from a Hilton hotel in Little Rock.

Bledsoe's Twin City Tours had an airport shuttle for hotel guests and would also take patrons on tours of Little Rock and North Little Rock, Hilton general manager Bob Martorana said Tuesday.

Martorana said he knew Muhammad, who went by Hakim, and regularly saw him behind the wheel of a Twin Cities motorcoach since April, when the company expanded to Little Rock.

Bledsoe appears to be pulling back to Memphis. "They ceased operations as of yesterday," Martorana said.

"We were just given the direction by Mr. Bledsoe to remove everything. We just put it aside," he said. Martorana said he expects Bledsoe to pick up his materials next week.

An answering service picked up calls to Bledsoe's Little Rock office. A man answering the phone at the Memphis office said Bledsoe wasn't there and wouldn't comment on the business.

Muhammad is in protective custody at the Pulaski County jail. Prosecutor Larry Jegley said it could be nine weeks before his office receives the case file from police. Defendants have to be charged in circuit court within 60 business days of their first court appearance.

John Soos, a civilian spokesman for the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion, said Ezeagwula will likely be transferred to a military hospital for continued treatment and the Army was willing to provide a military funeral for Long.

"We just have to wait and see what needs they have," he said.

See today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for a story about the shooting

Thank you for coming to the Web site of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We're working to keep you informed with the latest breaking news.

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Comments on: UPDATE: Suspect in recruiting center shooting pleads 'not guilty'

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 total comments

Hey_you says... June 2, 2009 at 11:36 a.m.

Don't even let him enter a plea he should've been shot upon arrest.

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buckmakker_aol.com says... June 2, 2009 at 12:33 p.m.

Our penal system is not enough for this guy, he has earned extreme torture. Hang him up by his nad sack and disembowel him while he watches.

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ConwayArmyFamily says... June 2, 2009 at 12:34 p.m.

Since the extremists classify this as a Jihad (Holy War), then he should be held as a P.O.W. and charged accordingly. These were/are not ordinary men, but men who through Patriotism stepped up to serve their Country and were gunned down on their own soil. He admitted to the crime, but still pleads not guilty...how does that work? As for his reason, "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."? Interesting since these soldiers have not been overseas, have not been a part of the Middle Eastern hostilities. And last I checked the U.S. Military is NOT targeting Muslims....

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MizLil says... June 2, 2009 at 1:08 p.m.

I hope the DA doesn't plead this case out. The moron doesn't deserve any leniency whatsoever, especially since he has already admitted to shooting these soldiers. And for what? "Because of what they had done to Muslims in the past." What did these soldiers do in the past? They were hardly old enough to cut the "apron strings."

Does Arkansas have the death penalty? If so, I will be more than happy to pay my own way there to pull the switch, insert the needle, shoot the gun, or wrap the noose around his neck and pull the lever.

From: A mother of three current soldiers.

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roydspann_aol-com says... June 2, 2009 at 5:12 p.m.

I guess someone didn't like my comment earlier and removed it but as I pointed out, I am an American soldier and my son is in the Navy. I have served in the Iraqi war and I didn't trust Muslims in the middle east and I don't trust them here in the United States. Tell me how we let someone like "Muslim convert" (Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad; Bledsoe or whatever this low life calls himself) leave the United States for Somalia and then return. If he is so against what the United States stands for then why doesn't he act like a man and go fight with the Taliban against us Americans? He chooses to do a drive by on an unarmed American Soldier. Big man huh? I don't care what these spokes people say about the Muslim religon, I was there and know that the Muslim religon is againt the United States and what we stand for. Americans, you better wake up.....Try something on me and I have a little surprise for a person like "Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad".

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