NYC machete attacker expressed militant help for Islam, officers say

Three officers assigned to New Yr’s Eve celebrations in New York Metropolis’s Instances Sq. space had been injured by a machete-wielding teenager who expressed militant help for Islam, legislation enforcement officers mentioned.

The assault occurred shortly after 10 p.m. at West 52nd Road and eighth Avenue, simply exterior checkpoints for the high-security zone arrange for celebrants, officers mentioned at a news conference early Sunday.

The suspect approached an officer and tried to strike him over the pinnacle with the machete, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell mentioned. He then struck two officers within the head with the blade earlier than he was shot within the shoulder and apprehended by police, Sewell mentioned.

Three legislation enforcement officers with direct data of the investigation mentioned late Sunday that authorities had been wanting into whether or not the suspect reached for one of many officers’ service weapons throughout their takedown. The injured police had been out of the hospital and anticipated to get well.

Authorities recognized the suspect on the news conference solely as a 19-year-old man. 4 senior legislation enforcement officers mentioned the person is Trevor Bickford of Wells, Maine.

The suspect was recognized to federal brokers, who interviewed him in mid-December after a relative alerted them to his revolutionary help for Islam, 4 legislation enforcement sources briefed on the investigation mentioned.

His title is in a federal legislation enforcement database, they mentioned, and he was recognized to investigators for his social media postings. Bickford doesn’t have a prison file, the 4 officers mentioned.

The person, who made pro-jihadist statements from his hospital mattress in a single day, is believed to have traveled from Wells to decrease Manhattan on Thursday primarily through Amtrak, these sources mentioned.

Investigators had been probing whether or not he stayed at a homeless shelter downtown, the 4 officers mentioned.

A diary discovered by investigators could have indicated the suspect believed he was on a suicide mission: He left notes about who would inherit belongings and the place he needed to be buried, the sources mentioned.

The suspect mentioned within the diary he regrets disappointing his mom; he additionally wrote that he needed his brothers to hitch him in his struggle for Islam.

He had expressed some need to journey to Afghanistan prior to now, the officers mentioned. Terrorist-related propaganda and private writings had been present in his backpack, they mentioned.

FBI brokers with courtroom authorization searched the person’s house in Maine on Sunday, an company spokesperson mentioned.

Neighbors informed NBC affiliate WCSH the suspect is the kid of divorced mother and father and has two siblings. He lately labored at an space nation membership as a groundskeeper, they mentioned.

Bickford was a 2022 graduate of Wells Excessive College, the place he wrestled and performed soccer, in line with the station.

A number of legislation enforcement officers mentioned they had been wanting into whether or not the suspect traveled to New York particularly to focus on police on New Yr’s Eve.

The incident comes because the NYPD has seen different lone wolf terror-type assaults on officers. In Jamaica Queens in 2014, a radicalized man named Zale Thompson attacked three officers with out warning with a hatchet, practically killing one of many officers. In June 2020 in Brooklyn, Dzenan Camovic stabbed an officer within the neck, stole his gun and used it to fireside at responding officers in one other jihadist-inspired lone wolf assault.  

In Saturday’s assault, the officers had been initially hospitalized, one with a fractured cranium and one other with a nasty reduce, Sewell mentioned. On a later name, officers mentioned all three officers had been launched from Bellevue Hospital in a single day.

Mayor Eric Adams mentioned on the information convention that he had spoken to one of many wounded officers. “He understood that his function saved lives of New Yorkers right now,” Adams mentioned.

The investigation was nonetheless in its early levels.

Neither the FBI nor New York police had been looking out for every other suspects, officers mentioned.

The NYPD mounts an enormous safety operation yearly throughout New Yr’s Eve celebrations, deploying 1000’s of officers within the space round Instances Sq..

Officers anticipated as many as 1 million individuals to crowd the world, though police Sunday didn’t have a extra precise quantity.

Crowds are usually not allowed to entry the blocks to see performances and the midnight ball drop with out being screened at checkpoints the place officers use metal-detecting wands to display screen for weapons.

Massive baggage and coolers are banned from the world, whereas limitations are set as much as stop car assaults within the safe space.

Related Press, Alex Lo and Dennis Romero contributed.