LUBBOCK - A Texas college student accused of secretly planning to launch terror attacks on United States targets that included former president George W. Bush's home in Dallas made his first court appearance Friday.
News 8 was there as four marshals escorted a shackled Khalid Aldawsari into the Lubbock courtroom. The 20-year-old entered a not guilty plea to a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and will remain in custody until a detention hearing on March 11.
Friday, his attorney said, "This is not 'Alice in Wonderland,' where the queen said 'first the punishment, then the trial.' This is America, where everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence ... and a fair trial."
News 8 traveled to Lubbock Thursday and spoke to the suspect's former roommates, who are both from North Texas. Friday, they spoke again, and so did one of their parents.
While many were shocked to hear the news about the arrest and alleged attack plans made by the Saudi student, Bertha, a Garland resident and mother of one of his roommates, said it was surreal turning on her television Thursday to see Aldawsari on the screen.
"That was my initial reaction, he could have been dead," she said. "What if the boy had decided to blow up the apartment."
Between 2009 and 2010, Bertha's son, Dwaine Fombuh, lived in a four-bedroom campus apartment. Two of Fombuh's roommates were high school friends. The other, Aldawsari, was assigned by Texas Tech.
"Since my room was next to him, I would sneak a peek when I walked out of my room," Fombuh said. "He had nothing suspicious, just a laptop, a water jug. He would work out a lot."
Aldawsari's roommates said he always kept his bedroom locked and only came out to cook. He kept to himself, never had visitors and didn't really speak to his roommates. But, every once in a while, he would pound on the walls, they said.
"We made noise, obviously, so I guess it was for that reason," said Elton Ngamalue, another former roommate. "But, sometimes he did it when we were not making noise."
Fombuh said Aldawsari was often teased on campus for being Muslim and Middle Eastern.
"Just jokingly they would say he's a terrorist," he said.
Now ,with Aldawsari's recent arrest, they're still shocked it may have been true.
"Wow, just in his case, it's true," Fombuh said.
"That's the most thing I'm scared about," Ngamalue said. "He has seen my family; he has seen me. Just, he knows a lot of personal stuff."
Aldawsari's former roommates have not been back to Texas Tech since the story broke. They spent Thursday being interviewed by the FBI and hope to spend the weekend with family and friends.