The hatchet-wielding man who assaulted four New York police officers in Queens conducted a terrorist attack, New York City police said.
At a briefing at New York Police Department headquarters on Friday, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was asked if the incident was a terrorist act. In response, he said, "I’m very comfortable this was a terrorist attack, certainly,” according to Capital New York.
Still, Bratton said that preliminary information from the investigations has turned up no evidence that links the attacker, Zale Thompson, to a terrorist organization. Instead, police believe Thompson was self-radicalized, self-directed, and acting alone.
The department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller, said the 32-year-old Thompson had visited the websites of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. He also reportedly looked at stories about the latest White House fence jumper and the gunman who attacked Canadian lawmakers earlier this week, according to a search of the man’s computer.
"Every indicator points to he was acting alone: self-radicalized, self-directed," said Miller.
The NYPD fatally shot Thompson after he attacked a group of policemen – with a hatchet – on a busy street in Queens on Thursday. One police officer is being treated for a serious head wound.
Thompson had previously posted statements on YouTube and Facebook that “display a hyper-racial focus in both religious and historical contexts, and ultimately hint at his extremist leanings,” the SITE Intelligence Group said, as quoted AFP.
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Police said Thompson once served in the Navy and had a history of run-ins with the law over domestic violence in California in 2003 and 2004. They are also trying to determine if he had any history of mental illness.
Security video and witness accounts from the incident suggest that Thompson purposely targeted the four uniformed patrolmen.
At the time, the officers were posing for a photo for a freelance journalist. Without a word, Thompson swung at an officer who blocked the blow with his arm, police said. Another officer was hit in the back of the head and fell to the ground. As the suspect raised the hatchet again, the two uninjured officers drew their weapons and fired several rounds, police said. The bullets killed the assailant and wounded a female bystander, they added. A bloody hatchet, about 18 inches long, was recovered.
Officer Kenneth Healey remained hospitalized with a head wound on Friday. The female bystander is also being treated for a gunshot wound to the back.
Republished with permission from Russia Today