A teenager from Camden County pleaded guilty to trying to hire a sniper to kill Pope Francis during his visit to Philadelphia in 2015, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The would-be sniper turned out to be an FBI agent.
Santos Colon, now 17, of Lindenwold, admitted that from June 30, 2015, to Aug. 14, 2015, he "devised a plan to conduct an attack during the Sept. 2015 papal visit in Philadelphia," according to federal officials.
In addition to trying to hire a sniper, Colon also wanted to set off explosives, officials said.
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Throughout his scheming, Colon dealt with FBI agents and informants. At one point Colon and an undercover FBI agent scaled buildings and climbed on roofs in Philadelphia to look for the best locations to set up sniper fire, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told NBC News. After he allegedly "engaged in target reconnaissance with an FBI confidential source," Colon was arrested in 2015.
He faces up to 15 years in prison. No sentencing hearing has been set.
Hundreds of thousands attended three days of events involving the pope, including between 80,000 and 140,000 who attended his Mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway. No violence occurred throughout the weekend that city officials hailed as a success in hosting a major, international event.
His stay in Philadelphia was the centerpiece of the pope's first visit to the United States as head of the Catholic Church. He also made stops in Washington D.C. and New York City.