Jose Pimentel is being held without bail, charged with multiple terror offenses. In preparing for his arrest, police believed they had to act quickly.
CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports that New York police describe 27-year-old Jose Pimentel as a lone-wolf al Qaeda sympathizer intent on carrying out a one-man bombing campaign across New York City.
Pimentel, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested Saturday after police photographed him allegedly putting the finishing touches on three pipe bombs.
His mother, Carmen Sosa, reacted with disbelief saying Pimentel is a regular young man "who made a mistake."
"I'm sorry about what my son did. I didn't tell him to do this. He did that by himself," Sosa said.
Police say Pimentel, who also goes by Muhammad Yusuf, planned to attack police cars, postal facilities and U.S. soldiers returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To demonstrate the potential power of Pimentel's explosives, New York police built and tested what they said was a similar bomb, and its explosive force was large.
Pimentel never came close to carrying out his Jihad. Police have had him under surveillance for two years, and a confidential police informant worked with Pimentel over the past several months buying bomb parts and building devices.
Pimentel was following an online al Qaeda magazine article called "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom." Prosecutors say he drew inspiration from al Qaeda operative Anwar al Awlaki.
And Awlaki's death, in a September drone strike, was a trigger point for Pimentel, said New York Police commissioner Ray Kelly.
"The death of Anwar Awlaki is what motivated him and made him increase his tempo significantly," Kelly said.
Police say this is the 14th terror plot against New York since 9/11. It's not as serious as those targeting Times Square and the city's subways. But, the Pimentel case underscores the persistent threat from homegrown lone wolves living in our midst.
It's important to note the FBI, which handles almost all terror cases, declined to get involved with this one. Sources tell CBS News federal officials privately questioned the strength of the evidence and Pimentel's ability to carry out any kind of attack.