A self-described Muslim convert from Florida who is accused of stabbing his 13-year-old friend to death and injuring two others was an alleged ISIS sympathizer and had federal charges pending against him for threatening a Catholic school in England.
Shocking new details have emerged about Corey Johnson, of Jupiter, who was arrested after a standoff with police on Monday on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder for allegedly cutting the throat of Jovanni Sierra Brand on his 13th birthday and brutally knifing a mother and son during a sleepover at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens.
The 17-year-old Johnson reportedly told police after his arrest that he killed Brand for idolizing celebrities and repeatedly knifed Elaine Simon, 43, and her 13-year-old son, Dane Bancroft, for disrespecting his religious beliefs.
Birthday boy: Jovanni Sierra Brand (left), 13, was brutally stabbed and had his throat slashed in an attack that police said was carried out by his friend, self-described Muslim convert Corey Johnson (right), 17
Last photo: Just hours before the stabbing spree, Jovanni (pictured on the left in a yellow jacket) celebrated his upcoming birthday at a pizza restaurant with his family and friends, including Corey Johnson (pictured at the far end of the table)
He also claimed to have read Quran on his phone to give him ‘courage’ to carry out the bloody stabbing spree during Monday’s sleepover.
According to a detailed police report cited by The Palm Beach Post, law enforcement officials in Florida have been aware of Johnson from the time he was in middle school because of his suspected violent tendencies and extremist beliefs.
Palm Beach County School District Police said that at the time, Johnson was known for making disparaging remarks about Jews and homosexuals, expressing support for the KKK and was described by others as a white supremacist.
When police went to interview the boy’s family, his mother and grandparents said Corey was fascinated with Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Kim Jong Un, and that he had recently began studying the Quran.
In January 2017, local law enforcement agencies and FBI agents met with staff at William T Dwyer High School, where Johnson was a student at the time to discuss information suggesting that the teen had reached out to ISIS online saying that he wished to join the murderous terrorist group.
Johnson (pictured in court after arrest) was a suspected ISIS supporter who had been investigated by the FBI for a year and had federal charges pending against him
The 17-year-old was accused of threatening McAuley Catholic High School in Doncaster, England (pictured) on Instagram in October 2016
The threat that allegedly sparked the probe into Johnson’s online activities read: ‘We have our sights set on you, and by Allah we will kill every infidel student at this school inshallah) #McAuleySchoolMassacre’
A sheriff’s detective interviewed the 17-year-old to assess his mental state and concluded that Johnson was a terrorist sympathizer, according to the report.
The FBI later informed the Jupiter Police Department that an unspecified European counter-intelligence agency was investigating Johnson in connection to threats that were made in Instagram threats that were made in October 2016 against McAuley Catholic High School in Doncaster, England.
Authorities said the threats were so serious that up to 100 students withdrew from the school for fear of an attack.
On October 10, 2016, DailyMail.com reported that one of the threatening posts read: ‘We have our sights set on you, and by Allah we will kill every infidel student at this school inshallah) #McAuleySchoolMassacre.’ The threatening message came from an account named 81daesh48. Daesh is an alternative name for ISIS.
After interviewing Corey’s family, police and the FBI continued monitoring his online activity, but federal officials initially opted not to criminally charge him because of his young age and concluded that ‘a redirection approach would be the most beneficial.’
When they interviewed Johnson, the boy denied being an ISIS sympathizer. Federal agents urged him to cease all social media activities having anything to do with the terrorist group and barred him from contacting the English high school again.
But by the summer of 2017, the FBI said Johnson resumed posting content online and the FBI decided to bring charges against him.
By February 2017, the federal agency said it had gathered all the evidence necessary to form all charge the Florida teen.
On March 5, police in Jupiter reached out to the FBI about the status of its investigation into Johnson and were told that probable cause affidavits would be coming in the next several weeks.
A week later, on the morning of March 12, Johnson allegedly climbed the stairs to a loft where Jovanni Brand was sleeping, stabbed the birthday boy multiple times and slashed his throat.
Family torn apart: Jovanni is pictured with his family (L to R): stepfather Oliver Abreu, sister Isabella and mom Karen Abreu
Karen Abreu said the 13-year-old played soccer in a youth league (pictured right with a trophy)
Dashed dreams: The middle schooler wanted to be a marine biologist when he grew up
When Elaine Simon, 43, heard the dying boy’s moans and went to check on him, police say Johnson stabbed her a dozen times and also knifed her 13-year-old son more than 30 times.
Brand’s mother, Karen Abreu, described the boy to the Palm Beach Post as ‘an amazing soul’ and her ‘angel.’
She recounted how just hours before his death, the family had gone to play paintball and then went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant.
Jovanni noticed his friend Corey Johnson, who wold be a guest at his upcoming slumber party at the country club, at the eatery and invited him to join his family for dinner.
The last known photo of Jovanni shows the boy having dinner with his parents, sister and other relatives. Johnson is pictured smiling at the far end of the table.
Jovanni is survived by his parents and eight-year-old sister, Isabella (right)
Abreu, who works as a receptionist, recalled how she asked her son to spend the night before his birthday at home so she could give him a kiss and a hug first thing in the morning, but she said Jovanni told her he wanted to hang out with his friends.
‘My last words to my son were, “I love you and have fun, “‘ she tearfully told the paper. ‘I never imagined that was the last time I would see him.’
According to the mother, Jovanni was a student at Watson P Duncan Middle School and played soccer in a youth league. He wanted to be a marine biologist when he grew up.
Jovanni is survived by his mother, his stepfather Oliver Abreu and his eight-year-old sister Isabella.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with the child’s funeral expenses. As of Wednesday afternoon, close to $15,000 has been raised.
The grisly incident began unfolding at around 6am when police got a 911 call from the residence at 334 Sunset Bay Lane, reported CBS12.
Responding officers found Simon, Dane Bancroft and Brand suffering from stab wounds.
Simon and Bancroft were rushed to a hospital to be treated for multiple knife wounds. Brand, who turned 13 on Monday, was pronounced dead at the scene after having his throat slashed.
Johnson was arrested after a standoff at the BallenIsles Country club in Palm Beach Gardens
Simon’s other son, 15-year-old Kyle Bancroft, was also present at the scene but escaped unharmed.
Johnson barricaded himself inside the home but turned himself into to police after a two-hour standoff with a SWAT team.
Police said Simon was awakened at around 5.45am by the sound of moaning coming from an upstairs loft where Jovanni Brand was staying. She went to check up on the boy but was confronted by Johnson, who allegedly proceeded to stab her 12 times.
Her 13-year-old Dane rushed to his mother’s defense and was stabbed more than 30 times by the suspect, according to police.
Despite their injuries, the mother and son were able to run for help to a neighbor’s house and summon the police.
Paramedics who arrived on the scene found Brand suffering from multiple stab wounds and a laceration to his neck.
According to a police report, Johnson told investigators during questioning that he decided to kill Dane and Jovanni because he felt the former made fun of his Muslim faith and the latter was idolizing celebrities and referring to them as ‘gods,’ which went against Johnson’s beliefs.
He allegedly stabbed Elaine Simon 12 times and her son Dane more than 30 times after reading from the Quran on his phone to give him courage
Kyle Simon told police he and Johnson would often watch violent online videos about Jihadists, most recently on Sunday.
That same day, Johnson said he went out to buy a knife and brought it along when he was invited by Elaine Simon to the sleepover the following day.
The 17-year-old convert also told police that he read the Quran on his phone to draw courage from the holy text before launching the deadly attack.
Johnson is being held at a juvenile detention facility. A grand jury will decide whether or not to charge him as an adult.