A man suspected of attacking three New York City police officers with a machete just outside a New Year’s Eve security checkpoint in Times Square and who is believed to have expressed militant support for Islam was arrested Monday on two counts of attempted murder, police said.
Trevor Bickford, a 19-year-old resident of Wells, Maine — nearly 300 miles from Times Square — is also facing two counts of attempted assault, police said.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told NBC News Monday afternoon it is unclear when he will be arraigned “based on a number of factors.”
Officials on Sunday said the attack occurred shortly after 10 p.m. at West 52nd Street and Eighth Avenue, just outside high-security checkpoints that celebrants had to pass through. Bickford was identified Sunday only as “a 19-year-old man”; police confirmed his identity Monday.
The attack began when a man approached an officer and tried to strike him over the head with the machete before striking two officers in the head with the blade, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. Bickford was then shot in the shoulder and apprehended by police, Sewell said.
The three officers were hospitalized, according to Sewell, who said one had a fractured skull and another had a bad cut. They were discharged from Bellevue Hospital overnight.
NBC New York reported that Paul Cozzolino Jr. is the officer who suffered the fractured skull and that had just graduated from the police academy the day before the attack.
Three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News late Sunday that authorities were investigating whether the suspect reached for one of the officers’ service weapons during their takedown.
Four law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation said federal agents knew the suspects after having interviewed him in mid-December after a relative alerted them that he had expressed militant support for Islam. He was also known to investigators because of his social media postings, the four officials said, adding that Bickford does not have a criminal record.
The sources added that Bickford is believed to have traveled from Wells to lower Manhattan on Thursday mainly via Amtrak. Investigators are also looking into whether Bickford may have stayed at a homeless shelter upon arrival, the four officials said.
A diary found by investigators contained information about who should inherit his belongings and where he wanted to be buried should he die in the attack, the sources said. It also said that he regretted disappointing his mother and that he hoped his brothers would join him in his fight for Islam, they said, adding that his background also contained terrorist-related propaganda and personal writings. Bickford also made pro-jihadist statements from his hospital bed overnight, according to the sources.
FBI agents were outside Bickford’s home in Wells on Sunday, NBC affiliate WCSH of Portland, Maine, reported.
Neighbors told NBC affiliate WJAR of Providence, Rhode Island, that they were shocked by the attack.
“I’m like, blown away to think so close to home that someone would like go all the way to New York and commit the crime,” Bethanne Brunelle told the local outlet.
“Wells is a very small community and you think, ‘Did this really just happen here?'” neighbor Steve Isles said.
Mithil Aggarwal, Tom Winter, Jonathan Dienst and Myles Miller contributed.