FORT WORTH, Texas — Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, after raising suspicions at a Killeen, Texas, gun shop where he bought 6 pounds of gunpowder and several boxes of shotgun shells, was in police custody in Killeen on Thursday, accused of plotting to kill fellow soldiers in a frightening reprise of the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood.
Abdo, 21, who grew up in Garland outside Dallas, was close to pulling off a "terror plot" in which the intended target was troops based at Fort Hood, said Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin.
"We would probably be here today giving you a different briefing had he not been stopped," Baldwin said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Abdo is a Muslim and sought a discharge because he said he was conflicted about his faith and his military service. An infantryman, he was most recently stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Baldwin said the early investigation, led by the FBI, has led them to believe that Abdo did not have accomplices.
Abdo, wanted by Army authorities since he was declared absent without leave from his Fort Campbell unit nearly a month ago, was arrested Wednesday at a hotel.
It is not known at this point why he traveled to Fort Hood, but a soldier such as Abdo who could legitimately bring weapons onto a base brought back memories for those familiar with the shooting deaths of 13 people at the base on Nov. 5, 2009. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan faces the death penalty for that attack.
Abdo joined the Army in March 2009. A year later he requested conscientious objector status and was not deployed with his unit to Afghanistan.
Base officials quickly issued a statement to reassure soldiers. “At this time, there has been no incident at Fort Hood,’’ officials said. “We continue our diligence in keeping our force protection at appropriate levels.’’
Abdo, who joined the Army in April of 2009, gained national attention last summer when he refused to deploy with his unit to Afghanistan, insisting his Muslim faith prevented him from serving. He fought his deployment since 2010 and gave multiple interviews.
“I was under the impression that I could serve both the US Army and my God simultaneously,’’ he said in a television interview with CNN last summer. “As the time had come near to deployment, I started really asking myself . . . whether God would accept what I was doing and whether I was really meant to go to war as opposed to the peace that Islam preaches.’’
Army officials said Abdo was granted conscientious objector status in May, but his discharge was put on hold after the Army said it had discovered child pornography on his computer.
James Branum, a lawyer who represented Abdo during his conscientious objector case but who is not representing him in this matter, said Abdo had been “pretty upset’’ about the child pornography charges. “He told me that in good conscience he could not plead guilty,’’ he said.
In June a military grand jury referred his case to a general court-martial. Abdo disappeared shortly after.
A spokeswoman for the Killeen Police Department said Abdo was being held on charges of possessing obscene material and being absent without leave.
The Washington Post reported that after he was charged with child pornography, Abdo hitchhiked from Kentucky to Killeen, according to officials. After checking into a motel there, he went to the same gun store where Hasan bought a high-powered semiautomatic pistol two years ago.
David Cheadle, store manager of Guns Galore, said Abdo grabbed six cans of smokeless gunpowder but asked what smokeless gunpowder was prompting suspicion.
“It just didn’t sit right,’’ he said, adding that Greg Ebert, an employee who spoke with Abdo, then called the police.