A senior law enforcement official said on Monday that the man accused of attacking three police officers with a knife near Times Square on New Year’s Eve went to New York from his Maine home, wounding police in an Islamist extremist act.
Police announced on Monday that 19-year-old man Trevor Bickford has been charged with two attempted murders and two attempted assaults. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, the law enforcement officer said Mr Bickford could also face terrorism charges.
Police said that shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, Mr. Bickford assaulted three police officers standing just outside the security cordon for the Times Square celebrations at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 52nd Street, before one of the three officers shot him. On the shoulder Police said a police officer, who had just graduated from the police academy, suffered a fractured skull in the attack and was hospitalized in stable condition.
The law enforcement official said that two other officers, including the one who shot Mr. Bickford, were discharged from the hospital, while Mr. Bickford remained in the hospital in stable condition.
Sometime on Saturday after the attack, Mr Bickford wrote a farewell letter to his family in a diary found later on, the official said. In it, he wrote to his mother: “I am very afraid that you will not repent to God, and therefore I hope that a part of you will be taken out of Hell by believing.”
The law enforcement official said Mr. Bickford said in his diary that his brother, who was in the US army, also wore the enemy’s uniform.
Investigators began putting together a photo of the suspect’s life, the official said. Mr. Bickford is a native of Wells, half an hour south of Portland, Maine. He was a high school athlete, honors student, and award-winning artist who seemed to be in decline after his father died of a drug overdose a few years ago. At some point in the last year and a half, he has converted to Islam, often praying in the surrounding mosques and devouring readings and videos about the religion. Angered by the persecution of Muslims overseas, including the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China, he decided to go abroad and fight for them.
After her family notified law enforcement of her plan to travel overseas, she said she plans to instead travel within the country and in peace. He left Maine in early December with several thousand dollars in cash, debit or credit card and a machete. He arrived in New York by train last Thursday.
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 the principles of Muslim philanthropy. He took the subway to Queens, where police later took some of his belongings, including sleeping bags, bedding and food, at Forest Park in Richmond Hill. The police are investigating if he met anyone there.
On New Year’s Eve afternoon, Mr. Bickford was in Times Square. Because he wanted to attack only the police, not the bystanders, he waited until he found the police officers who were not with the other civilians.