A hatchet attack on New York City police officers by what has been described as a “self-radicalized” recluse has been deemed an act of terrorism by the NYPD.
“This was a terrorist act,” New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said at a Friday news conference.
Zale Thompson, the 32-year-old man who allegedly assaulted four NYPD officers on the street in Queens, N.Y., was shot and killed on the scene of the incident, which left one policeman in critical condition and another stable from hatchet wounds.
The incident occurred around 2 p.m. when the officers were asked by a freelance photographer to pose for a photo. Thompson then reportedly charged at the group from behind – “unprovoked and not speaking a word,” according to Bratton – striking one officer in the arm and another officer in the head. The other two officers then opened fire on Thompson, killing him and injuring a nearby woman who was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The incident came just one day after Canada’s Parliament building was attacked by a man influenced by Islamic extremism, prompting widespread concern over a possible terrorist motive.
“Was this an act of terror?” John Miller, the Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism at the NYPD, asked rhetorically in remarks to the press on Friday. “It appears at this point that that was the suspect’s intent.”
Law enforcement sources told WNBC that Thompson appears to have acted alone, and had displayed an anti-police, anti-military bias in “his rantings.” An ongoing police investigation has found “no known ties to any terror group,” but the deceased suspect is said to have advocated attacking America “from within” and held strong views on the oppression of minorities in this country.
Police are still investigating whether Thompson had been influenced by jihadi or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria propaganda. A second hatchet was found in the suspect’s apartment, police said. And police found evidence on the suspect’s hard drives that showed he had viewed al-Qaida clips and beheading videos. “It appears this is something he’s been thinking about for some time,” Miller said.
“At this point,” Miller added, there is “no indication of anyone else involved.” White House officials say President Obama was briefed yesterday on the incident. Federal officials told NBC News “we are taking the incident seriously. We are running it to the ground. We are exploring all the options. But at this time the jury is still out as to motive.”