Terrorism probed in Times Square New Year’s Eve machete attack on cops; Maine man charged: sources
NEW YORK CITY — An “unprovoked” machete attack on three New York police officers near Times Square on New Year’s Eve is being investigated as a possible terrorist incident. The suspect is a 19-year-old man from Maine, whose online posts indicate recent Islamic radicalization, sources told ABC News.
Investigators are investigating whether the suspect came to the annual ball specifically to attack law enforcement officials, the sources said.
The incident happened just after 10 p.m. Saturday near West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue, outside the secure area set up for New Year’s Eve celebrations, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. to reporters at a press conference at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
“Without provocation, a 19-year-old man approached an officer and attempted to hit him on the head with a machete,” Sewell said. “The man then hit two other officers on the head with the machete.”
One of the officers fired his weapon and hit the suspect in the shoulder, Sewell said. The suspect has been arrested, she said.
The suspect was identified Monday morning as Trevor Bickford of Wells, Maine.
He is suspected of attempted murder of a police officer and attempted assault.
The three injured officers were taken to Bellevue, Sewell said. The three officers were released from the hospital on Sunday.
Suspicious relatives have expressed their concerns
While a motive is still being investigated, authorities are not ruling out that the suspect came to New York specifically to attack police officers while dropping balloons in Times Square, sources said. policewomen at ABC News.
Multiple law enforcement sources have identified the suspect as 19-year-old Trevor Bickford of Wells, Maine. According to the sources, on December 29, he took an Amtrak train to New York.
Federal and local investigators are sifting through the suspect’s online posts, which point to recent extremist Islamic radicalization, the sources said.
Bickford has never been arrested before. His mother and aunt have informed police in recent weeks of their concerns that he is attracted to dangerous Islamic ideologies, the sources said. The report prompted the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate the suspect, police sources said.
The NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau is working with the FBI to investigate the New Year’s Eve attack.
If authorities determine that the attack was motivated by Islamic ideology, it would be the first New Year’s Eve-related terrorist incident in Times Square, authorities said.
Ahead of New Year’s Eve, the NYPD noted in a pre-event review that in December “several pro-ISIS users distributed extremist propaganda graphics broadly calling for attacks before New Year’s Eve, advocating a wide variety of low-tech tactics”. Islamic terrorist groups have long encouraged stabbings.
Federal and local law enforcement officials stressed during Sunday morning’s press conference that the attack appeared to be an isolated incident and no longer a threat.
Injured officers in stable condition
One of the injured officers, an eight-year NYPD veteran, suffered a head injury, officials said. Another injured officer had just graduated from the police academy on Friday and, as is traditionally the case, his first assignment was the New Year’s Eve detail in Times Square. The rookie officer was also struck in the head, resulting in a fractured skull and major lacerations, officials said.
“We are very pleased with the response and how our officers have handled this situation,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “All three officers are in stable conditions and there are no critical threats to New Yorkers at this time.”
FBI Deputy Chief Director Mike Driscoll said the agency’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is involved to “determine the nature of the attack.” He said the FBI believed the attacker acted alone.
The NYPD has released an image of a gun and says it was recovered at the scene. The weapon appeared to be a Gurkha knife, a type of curved blade, according to ABC News contributor Darrell M. Blocker, a retired CIA operative.
Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, said, “Let’s think about those relatives here who are in shock right now and never think the first call of the year would be theirs. son, their husband, their relative would be here at Bellevue Hospital.”
“Everyone is panicking”
Videos from the scene appeared to show revelers jogging in the rain as they were pushed away from the stage by police motorcades.
California’s David Lyugovski told ABC News he saw dozens of officers, some with guns, running to the scene of the incident.
“They all tell us to go to the observation area for the drop of the ball and everyone is running, everyone is panicking,” Lyugovski said.
Lyugovski and his South Carolina brother-in-law Andrew Dyachkin were in New York to watch the ball drop in Times Square, they said in a joint video interview.
“Someone is yelling, ‘Take it easy, take it easy,’ because everyone is nervous,” Dyachkin said. “Like, I’m sure in the back of all of us, now that could be a target to, you know, shoot.”
He added: “We thought someone was trying to shoot as many people as possible. Another mass shooting.’
One of the officers involved in the incident had graduated from the police academy on Friday, Sewell said.
Adams spoke at the officer’s graduation ceremony, he said.
“It just shows you that this could be your first day or your last day. The actions that police officers have to take every day are life-threatening situations,” Adams said.
Josh Margolin, Keith Harden, Patricio Chile and Mark Crudele of ABC News contributed to this report.
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