Islamic extremism drove suspect in Times Square attack, official says
The man accused of attacking three police officers with a machete near Times Square on New Year’s Eve had traveled to New York from his home in Maine to wound police in an act of Islamic extremism, said on Monday a senior law enforcement official.
The man, Trevor Bickford, 19, has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of attempted assault, police said on Monday. Mr Bickford could also face terrorism charges, said the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, police said, Mr. Bickford attacked three officers who were standing near the corner of Eighth Avenue and 52nd Street, just outside the security cordon for the Times Square celebrations, before one of the three officers shoots him. in the shoulder. An officer, who had just graduated from the police academy, suffered a fractured skull in the attack and remains hospitalized in stable condition, police said.
The other two officers, including the one who shot Mr Bickford, have been released from hospital, while Mr Bickford remains hospitalized in stable condition, the law enforcement official said.
Sometime on Saturday before the attack, the official said, Mr Bickford wrote a farewell letter to his family in a diary which was later found on his person. In it he wrote to his mother: “I am very much afraid that you will not repent to Allah and that is why I keep the hope in my heart that a part of you will believe so that you can be removed from hell.
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Mr Bickford also made reference in his diary to his brother, who is in the US military, as having put on the enemy’s uniform, the law enforcement official said.
Investigators have begun to piece together a picture of the suspect’s life, the official said. Mr. Bickford is from Wells, a half-hour south of Portland, Maine. He was a high school athlete, honor roll student, and award-winning entertainer who seemed to crumble after his father died of a drug overdose several years ago. Over the past year and a half, he has converted to Islam, often praying in nearby mosques and devouring religious readings and videos. He was angered by the persecution of Muslims abroad, including Rohingyas in Myanmar and Uyghurs in China, and decided to go abroad and fight for them.
After his family alerted law enforcement of his intention to go abroad, he said he planned to travel domestically and in peace instead. He left Maine in early December with several thousand dollars in cash, a debit or credit card and the machete. Last Thursday, he had arrived by train in New York.
Mr. Bickford spent Friday night at a hotel in the Bowery in Manhattan, stopped by the Bowery Mission and made a large donation in accordance with Muslim charitable principles. He took the subway to Queens, where police then collected some of his belongings, including a sleeping bag, bed roll and food, from Forest Park in Richmond Hill. The police are investigating whether he met anyone there.
In the middle of the afternoon, on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Bickford was in Times Square. Because he wanted to attack only the police, not bystanders, he waited to find officers who weren’t standing next to other civilians.