By Jack Phillips
New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell told reporters Sunday that the suspect, 19, tried to slash an officer with a machete in an unprovoked attack. The man then swung at two other officers with the weapon, Sewell added.
One of the officers discharged his firearm, striking the assailant in the shoulder, Sewell said. One officer received a skull fracture and a large cut while another officer received a laceration to the head, she added.
“We are working with our federal partners for this investigation, and it is ongoing,” Sewell said.
There were reports, citing unnamed police sources, that said the suspect was a radical Islamic extremist. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating, an official said at the news conference.
“I want to be clear that the FBI, through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, is working very closely with [the NYPD] to determine the nature of this attack,” the FBI’s Michael Driscoll confirmed at the Sunday conference. “And we will run every lead to ground. I also want to be very clear, as you’ve heard said tonight previously, this is very much an ongoing investigation so our ability to talk about specifics is limited.”
Driscoll did not specifically address reports saying the suspect was linked to Islamic extremism. Unnamed police sources said the suspect was identified as Maine man Trevor Bickford, and they alleged that his recent online activity suggested that he had radical Islamic views.
Federal and local law enforcement officials said at Sunday morning’s news conference that the attack appeared to be an isolated incident. The suspect also acted alone, they said.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams praised the police response at the news conference. All the officers involved in the incident are in stable condition and expected to recover, the mayor said.
“And as we do a preliminary review of the body cam video, we see how well these officers executed the plan that was put in place by the New York City Police Department in ensuring we protect those who came here to bring in a new year,” the Democrat mayor told reporters.
Authorities said the incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. local time at West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, just blocks away from Times Square celebrations.
Sewell, meanwhile, said that suspect attacked the officers in an unprovoked manner. Other details about the incident were not immeidately provided.
“Unprovoked, a 19-year-old male approached an officer and attempted to strike him over the head with a machete,” Sewell said Sunday. “The male then struck two additional officers in the head with the machete.”
On Twitter, the the NYPD released a photo of the alleged weapon, showing it may be a type of kukri machete.
Before New Year’s, the NYPD wrote in a bulletin that “multiple pro-ISIS users disseminated extremist propaganda graphics broadly calling for attacks in advance of the New Year, advocating a wide range of low-tech tactics,” according to ABC News. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security released a pre-Christmas bulletin warning of possible attacks in the coming months.
“Recent incidents have highlighted the enduring threat to faith-based communities, including the Jewish community. In early November 2022, an individual in New Jersey was arrested for sharing a manifesto online that threatened attacks on synagogues,” the late November DHS bulletin said. “The individual admitted to writing the document, in which he claimed to be motivated by … (ISIS) and hatred towards Jewish people.”
Some of those threats, it said, could be linked to the death of terrorist ISIS leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi’s death during recent fighting in Syria. He was the second ISIS leader to die in 2022.