Terrorism probed in machete attack on Times Square police officers on New Year’s Eve; 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 attack. The suspect is a 19-year-old Maine man whose online posts indicate recent Islamic radicalization, sources told ABC News.

Investigators are investigating whether the suspect came to the annual ball drop specifically to lead an attack on law enforcement, the sources said.

The incident happened just after 10 p.m. Saturday near West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue outside of the security perimeter set up for New Year’s Eve celebrations, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell told reporters at a news conference at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital.

“Unprovoked, a 19-year-old man approached an officer and attempted to hit him in the head with a machete,” Sewell said. “Then the man hit two other officers on the head with a machete.”

Trevor Bickford, 19, who is suspected of the machete attack on three New York police officers near Times Square on New Year’s Eve, is pictured here in this undated photo.

One of the officers fired his gun and hit the suspect in the shoulder, Sewell said. The suspect was arrested, she said.

The suspect was identified Monday morning as Trevor Bickford of Wells, Maine.

He is accused of attempted murder of a police officer and attempted assault.

The three injured officers were taken to Bellevue, Sewell said. All three officers were released from the hospital on Sunday.

Suspicious relatives reported concerns

While a motive is still under investigation, authorities are not ruling out the possibility that the suspect came to New York City specifically to attack police officers at the Times Square Ball Drop, law enforcement officials told ABC News.

Multiple law enforcement agencies identified the suspect as Trevor Bickford, 19, of Wells, Maine. He took an Amtrak train to New York City on Dec. 29, the sources said.

Federal and local law enforcement investigators are combing through the suspect’s online posts, which point to recent extremist Islamic radicalization, the sources said.

Bickford has no previous arrests. His mother and aunt have informed law enforcement in recent weeks of their concerns that he is drawn to dangerous Islamist ideologies, the sources said. The report prompted the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate the suspect, law enforcement sources said.

The New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau and the FBI are investigating the New Year’s Eve attack.

Should authorities determine the attack was motivated by Islamist 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 assessment that in December, “several pro-ISIS users disseminated extremist propaganda graphics extensively calling for attacks ahead of the New Year and endorsing a wide range of low-tech tactics.” Islamist terrorist groups have long encouraged knife attacks.

Both federal and local law enforcement officials said at Sunday morning’s press conference that the attack appeared to be an isolated case and that the threat no longer existed.

Injured officers in stable condition

One of the injured officers, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD, suffered a laceration to the head, officials said. Another injured officer had just graduated from the police academy on Friday, and as is traditional, his first assignment was New Year’s Eve squad in Times Square. The rookie officer was also hit in the head, resulting in a fractured skull and a large laceration, officials said.

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The New York City Police Department released an image of a knife they said was found on New Year’s Eve at the scene of a shooting near Times Square involving an officer.

NYPD

“We are very pleased with the response and how our officials have handled this situation,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “All three officers are in stable condition and there are no critical threats to New Yorkers at this time.”

FBI Deputy Acting Director Mike Driscoll said the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is involved in “determining what the nature of the attack is.” He said the FBI believes the attacker acted alone.

The NYPD released an image of a gun and said it was recovered at the scene. According to ABC News contributor Darrell M. Blocker, a retired CIA agent, the weapon appeared to be a Gurkha knife, a type of curved blade.

Patrick Lynch, President of the City of New York’s Police Benevolent Association, said: “Let’s think of the family members here who are in shock right now and never think that the first call of the year would be their son, their husband, their family member would be here at Bellevue Hospital.”

“Everyone is panicking”

Crime scene videos appeared to show revelers jogging through the rain as they were led away from the scene by columns of police officers.

David Lyugovski of California told ABC News he saw dozens of officers, some with guns drawn, running towards the scene of the incident.

“They all tell us to go to the spectator area to drop the ball and everyone runs, everyone panics,” Lyugovski said.

Lyugovski and his brother-in-law, Andrew Dyachkin, of South Carolina, were in New York to watch the ball drop in Times Square, they said in a joint video interview.

“Someone is shouting: ‘Calm down, calm down’ because everyone is nervous,” Dyachkin said. “I’m sure in the back of all of our minds this could be a target for shooting right now.”

He added: “We thought someone was trying to shoot as many people as possible.

One of the officers involved in the incident graduated from the police academy on Friday, Sewell said.

Adams spoke at the officer’s graduation ceremony, he said.

“It just shows you, it could be your first day or it could be your last day, the actions that cops have to take every day are life-threatening situations,” Adams said.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin, Keith Harden, Patricio Chile and Mark Crudele contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023 ABC News Internet Ventures.

https://abc7.com/new-years-eve-times-square-attack-machete-on-officers-york-city-police-attacked-west-52nd-street/12641298/ Terrorism probed in machete attack on Times Square police officers on New Year’s Eve; Maine man charged: sources

Laura Coffey

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