Miguel Santana, who lived with his parents and younger sister in the 1300 block of Primrose Street, would "speak menace" to the kids in the neighborhood and talked about going to Afghanistan, said Manuel Gomez, who frequently visited family in the Upland neighborhood.
Santana and three others were arrested Friday on suspicion of plotting to join al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan in hopes of killing Americans.
Santana was charged along with Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, an Afghanistan native and former resident of Pomona; Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario and a native of the Philippines; and Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside.
THE DEFENDANTSSohiel Omar Kabir
Born in Afghanistan, Kabir is a 34-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who was a resident of Pomona, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and state records. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 2000 to 2001. The FBI learned he departed the U.S. for Germany in December 2011 and entered Afghanistan in July 2012, according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Kabir introduced Miguel Alejandro Santana and Ralph Kenneth Deleon to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaida leader.
Ralph Kenneth Deleon
Deleon is a 23-year-old permanent resident immigrant who resides in the city of Ontario. He was born in the Phillipines. He converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments. He is being detained, without bail, at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino. A prelimijnary hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 3 and an arraignment for Dec. 5 in federal court.
Miguel Alejandro Santana
Santana is a 21-year-old permanent resident immigrant who resides in Upland. He was born in Mexico and has pending citizenship in the U.S.
Santana converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments.
Santana is being detained at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3 and an arraignment on Dec. 5.
Arifeen David Gojali
Gojali is a 21-year-old U.S. citizen by birth and a resident of Riverside. His attorney, John Aquilina, said Gojali, who is being held without bail at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino, will appear in U.S. District Court in Riverside on Monday for a bond hearing, in which a judge will determine if bail will be set.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3 and an arraignment for Dec. 5.
Like many in the Inland Empire who had interactions with the men, Gomez said he was surprised by the news.
"They were a Mexican family and were hardcore Catholics," he said. "You wouldn't expect that from Catholics and not a Mexican family."
In the southern part of Ontario, neighbors of Deleon said he had recently converted to Islam and was dressing differently.
Enedina Garcia said she didn't really talk to Deleon but they always greeted each other. In recent years, Garcia said she noticed that Deleon exercised a lot and could always be seen running around the neighborhood early in the mornings.
"I'm so surprised, I had no idea. I knew he had recently changed his religion but I didn't think he would do something like this," she said. "He looked like a good boy."
Garcia and Dilma Mora said they had no idea why FBI agents on Friday were at the home in the 300 block of Manzanita Court for nearly seven hours.
"I knew it had to be something big," Garcia said.
Mora who lives across the street and a couple houses down the street from the Deleon residence was shocked by the news, but said she had a gut feeling the FBI agents were there for a terrorism-related incident.
At one point, FBI agents, who were wearing gloves, took a couple of boxes from the home and loaded them into a white van, she said.
Garcia said she was gardening when about 10 FBI agents walked past her home to the Deleons' residence.
"I just froze, I didn't know what to do," she said.
Garcia said one of the female FBI agents motioned her to go inside. They remained there for several hours.
Like Garcia, Mora said she had seen some subtle changes in Deleon such as his attire and his circle of friends. There were several times in the past couple of months in which she noted he was hanging out in front of his home with friends who appeared to be Arabic.
"One time I saw him get on his knees and kiss the floor before he got in his car," she said.
The women said the Deleons seem like a nice family but they pretty much kept to themselves.
"I feel bad for the parents. He was a good boy," Garcia said.
The relative calm on the streets that Santana and Deleon lived was similar to the house where Kabir had previously resided.
The alleged mastermind of a terrorism plot didn't spend his years in Chino Hills in the sort of deprivation that are typically seen as the birthplaces for extremism.
For more than a decade, his family apparently lived on sleepy Buckhaven Road, where the houses have three bedrooms and three-car garages.
Kabir apparently lived in the Buckhaven house from 1995 until three years ago, when it was bought by its current owners. The three bedroom, 2.5-bath, 2,066-square-foot Buckhaven home is now worth $460,756, according to Internet real estate site Zillow, and was foreclosed on by its lender.
Before buying a one-way ticket to Kabul in July, Kabir lived in Pomona.
Neighbors on seemingly harmless streets were not alone in their surprise that those they knew were involved in a major terrorism plot.
Gojali often prayed at a downtown Islamic center in Pomona where fellow congregants said they were surprised by the news that the FBI had accused him and the three other Inland Empire men of plotting to kill Americans in Afghanistan.
"It shocked me. I was surprised," said Binisa Mokhtar, while he prepared to drive away from the Islamic center. "All I can do now is pray for him."
Gojali prayed at Masjid al-Sabireen Cham American Muslim Community, a Garey Avenue Islamic center a couple blocks south from the Los Angeles Superior Court house in downtown Pomona.
President Krya Jacques said Gojali prayed at the center for about 10 years, but Gojali did not outwardly show interest in violent jihad.
"I'm surprised. I hope it's not a set-up for him," Jacques said. "I want justice for him. I'm not his side. I'm not on anybody's side."
Gojali previously lived in a south Pomona neighborhood, but neighbors said he and his family left several months ago. Residents said Gojali and others in the home rarely interacted with his neighbors.
"I hardly saw them," said Andrew Salazar, 19.
At Masjid al-Sabireen, Jacques' remarks seemed to indicate that he had few personal interactions with Gojali.
"People come to pray," Jacques said. "Other than that, if they come quietly, they go. That's it."
Masjid al-Sabireen member Gamal Adia said the Pomona Islamic center often provides food and other assistance to area homeless without regard to religion. He also said hundreds of millions of the world's Muslims reject terrorism.
"It's not from our religion," Adia said.
Adia said Gojali presented himself as a helpful member of the Islamic center who was quick to offer favors to others.
Adia did not say whether he expects Gojali to be exonerated or proven guilty, but that anyone who is guilty of terrorism deserves to be punished.
"I respect the law," Adia said.
Staff writers Sandra Emerson, Liset Márquez, Beau Yarbrough and Andrew Edwards contributed to this report.