DENVER – A young Castle Rock man has been charged with terrorism-related crimes after attempting to board an international flight last week to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and serve as one of its fighters in Iraq, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado.
Davin Daniel Meyer, 18, was arrested as he attempted to board a flight out of Denver International Airport shortly before 8 p.m. on July 14 and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The 29-page complaint states Meyer came to the attention of federal agents in June of last year after a friend observed the suspect’s “radical Islamic beliefs escalate as Meyer sought out more extremist videos and content online and openly discussed his violent intentions.”
One such video, the friend told deputies with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, showed a child shooting a 22-year-old man in the head as punishment when the man was caught spying against an extremist group, which Meyer reportedly said was justified because the man had betrayed the extremist group by spying.
Meyer’s friend also told deputies that the suspect had “previously followed white supremacist ideology but began practicing Islam, possibly as early as October of 2020,” before he began searching out more radical content online in early 2021.
The friend said Meyer attended an eight-month long camp between 2021 and 2022 that focused on mental health and behavior treatment to address several diagnosed disorders, including autism spectrum disorder; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood; specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics; and major depressive disorder which he experienced in recurrent, moderate bouts, according to federal agents.
Meyer reportedly refused to take any prescription medication prescribed to him because it would be against his Islamic religion, the complaint states.
Despite his stay at the camp, Meyer's friend said, the suspect became more radical in his beliefs and began praying six times a day and also frequently watched radical Islamic sermons online and listened to them on his phone while on walks.
The suspect’s behavior became more concerning when Meyer told his friend that he “wanted to travel to Syria and become a martyr, or if he did not make it to Syria, he wanted to kill people in the United States, including police and military members,” according to the probable cause statement, because he believed that the U.S. military were killing “his Muslim people” and he was willing to kill himself and others.
Further, the friend no longer felt safe after Meyer made death threats against them – threats the suspect’s friend took more seriously after Meyer started asking how he could get access to the friend’s safe, which had a rifle and a handgun inside.
Meyer’s only plan for the future, the friend told authorities, “was to join the radical Islamic fight and… die in his early twenties for Allah.”
While practicing Islam, Meyer also reportedly refused to attend the local mosque “because the imam did not let radical sects worship there,” according to the complaint, which also stated that Meyer “had expressed his anger at a local Colorado-based mosque for allowing females into the mosque.”
Soon after his 18th birthday, Meyer began talking to a person online whom he believed to be an ISIS facilitator, but who was in fact an undercover FBI agent. On Nov. 5, 2022, Meyer told the undercover FBI agent he had pledged his allegiance to ISIS and sent him a video a day later which purportedly showed his pledge to the terrorist organization, the probable cause statement shows.
Between November 2022 and June 2023, the documents show, Meyer continued to communicate with the undercover FBI agent and later on, a person he believed to be an ISIS-affiliated travel facilitator, but who was, in fact, a second undercover FBI agent.
The 18-year-old met with this second individual three times in person – on December 9, 2022; February 3, 2023; and June 22, 2023, in the area of Castle Rock “to discuss the efforts Meyer was making to fund and prepare for his travel to join ISIS,” according to the probable cause statement.
During that first meeting, the undercover FBI agent and Meyer talked about how the suspect developed his radical beliefs about Islam and asked him if he had access to weapons, which Meyer said he knew someone who “has guns which I don’t have access to,” arresting documents show.
At their second meeting in February, the undercover FBI agent asked Meyer if he had ever watched extremist videos before and if he had a problem with watching people die, to which Meyer replied that he had seen “mainly just beheadings with a sword and a knife,” before showing the undercover FBI agent a long video “that depicted beheadings, a man getting burned, and gun battles,” according to the complaint.
In their third meeting, Meyer reaffirmed his commitment to join ISIS and expressed he felt “nervous in an excited way.”
“…I feel like I’m ready. And I’ve been waiting for this for a while. And it’s not like I’m just gonna get cold feet and back out. ‘Cause I’ve been thinking, I’ve been waiting,” Meyer allegedly told the second undercover FBI agent during their third meeting, arresting documents show.
The complaint goes into further detail about Meyer’s preparedness for the trip to the Middle East, which agents said, “reflected careful planning and preparation,” including the purchase of clothing for the weather in the mountains of Turkey and Iraq, lying to the Turkish government about his reasons for applying for a visa in the country, and securing a job to fund his travel to the Middle East.
On or about June 22, 2023, Meyer had booked a one-way ticket to Turkey, the complaint states.
“I am very happy this is happening, but at the time I feel sad because I will most likely never see my parents again, and I’m leaving the place I’ve grown up all my life and become attached to,” Meyer reportedly wrote to the first undercover FBI agent, as he updated him on his plans to join ISIS soon. “It is a trial but it can be heavy on the heart. As many trials can be, Allah tests those whom he loves. I’m going to see if I can catch any sleep, there’s less than two hours until Fajr (one of the five mandatory Islamic prayers performed at dawn) where I’m at.”
Nearly a month later, on July 14, Meyer checked in to the flight he had previously booked and “repeatedly expressed anxiety and hesitation” about his trip to the Middle East, but also “determination to go through with his plans,” arresting documents show.
The suspect was seen by law enforcement arriving to DIA at around 5 p.m. on Friday where he first went into one of the religious prayer rooms before obtaining a boarding pass at a United Airlines check-in counter. He was observed passing through TSA with one piece of carry-on luggage, a black duffel bag, and showed his boarding pass to the gate agent nearly three hours later, at approximately 7:59 p.m.
Meyer entered the jet bridge but was arrested before stepping onto the airplane, the complaint shows. The suspect was then taken into custody by the FBI.
Meyer made his first appearance in federal court Monday. His next court appearance, a detention hearing, is scheduled for July 20 at 10 a.m. The case is being investigated by the FBI Denver Field Office, with help from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Friday's arrest marks at least the second time the FBI has stepped in to stop a Colorado resident from joining ISIS.
In 2016, a Colorado father spoke with Denver7 chief investigator Tony Kovaleski about how the terrorist organization recruited his then-15-year-old daughter and two of her friends on social media for more than a year before they boarded a plane from DIA bound for Turkey that was intercepted in Germany.
Stacey Hervey, a criminal justice and criminology associate professor at Metropolitan State University Denver, understands extremism on a psychological level. She said teenagers are particularly susceptible to such ideologies and are targeted by hate groups.
“When we interview anyone — whether it's a gang, for a white supremacy group, or cult — what you'll see is teenagers. Usually they start young, and they don't fit in, and they're trying to find their purpose in life," Hervey explained. “You have these groups that are using social media, the internet, to give these kids what they think is a purpose... Social isolation, bullying, not fitting in with peer groups, not finding your peer influences, is a sure sign that's going to lead someone to a group where they feel like they fit in. And these hate groups prey upon that."
Hervey read the complaint filed by the FBI and said it sounds like a teenager looking for somewhere to belong. She said hate groups typically seek out youth, since some are vulnerable to their tactics.
“Started to get online and then these groups try to find and target you. It's almost like sexual grooming of a young child. It's extremist grooming," she said. "They're targeting our children, they're targeting our babies. They're targeting young people to be fighters for their cause, through a hateful message.”
Hervey said it's a difficult and layered process to try and prevent such manipulation, but believes schools play a pivotal role.
"I do think it starts with schools. Most kids who join hate groups, or commit acts of violence in the name of hate, showed signs early on, or spoke about it either in their writings or on social media... Honestly, I would like to see teachers get some training on that," she said. “Parents, as well, should be checking with their kids. Look online. Be involved in your kids' lives, and try to find things that your kid is interested in.”
She added there have been cutbacks within schools and a lack of extracurricular activities for many students. Hervey would like to see those brought back to help give kids a place where they belong.