by: Jenna Deery Updated:
ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - A man with ties to Rowan County is in federal custody on a weapons charge and is believed to have been trying to pursue a relationship with a terrorist group in Iraq.
Federal agents arrested Donald Ray Morgan at JFK International Airport on Aug. 2 after a warrant was issued for his arrest on the charge of a felon in possession of a firearm. The warrant was issued while he was out of the country on an eight-month stay in Lebanon visiting his wife, according to officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
A grand jury in Rowan County indicted him in 2012 and he was convicted for discharging a firearm.
A judge denied bond for Morgan because of what federal investigators said they found on Morgan's social media accounts.
They said they found Morgan on Twitter pledging his allegiance to the leader of the terrorist group, ISIS. ISIS is responsible for executing Christians and children in Iraq. There are reports some tweets may have pointed to Morgan preparing for jihad in Syria or Iraq.
At one time, Morgan lived in Landis and worked at Auto House in Salisbury. His former neighbors told Channel 9 that federal agents had surveillance around Morgan's house, but the neighbors never knew why.
Acquaintances of Morgan's said they noticed a change in him when he became a Muslim. They said they noticed postings on social media expressing anti-American ideas.
"He took a turn religiously and he just went 180 degrees in that direction and he was serious about (it)," said Bryan Beaver. "He was very devoted to that but to be that extreme, I was surprised by that."
The Rowan County Sheriff's Office told Channel 9 that Morgan was a reserve officer and a detention officer for them in the mid-1990s. The office emphasized Morgan had in no way been associated with them since 1995.
Federal investigators have not connected Morgan to ISIS, but they say they do believe he could be a flight risk and danger to society.
Morgan is being extradited back to North Carolina. A federal court date for him has not been set yet.