FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Canadian man shouted in Arabic before stabbing a police officer in the neck at the Flint airport on Wednesday, and referenced people being killed overseas during the attack that’s now being investigated as an act of terrorism, federal officials said.
Amor Ftouhi, 49, of Quebec, was immediately taken into custody. A criminal complaint charging him with committing violence at an airport, a 20-year penalty, says Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why the officer didn’t kill him.
The attack is being investigated as an act of terrorism, but authorities have no indication at this time that he was involved in a “wider plot,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios.
“At this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker,” Gelios said. “We have no information to suggest any training.”
The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife after yelling “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” According to the FBI, Ftouhi said something similar to “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”
Neville was in satisfactory condition after undergoing surgery for a stab wound to his neck and initially being in critical condition, airport police Chief Chris Miller said at a late afternoon news conference where the charges were announced.
The attack around 9:45 a.m. at Bishop International Airport prompted an evacuation and extra security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was briefed on the stabbing.
Gelios said Ftouhi legally entered the U.S. at Champlain, New York, on June 16 and made his way to the Flint airport on Wednesday morning.
Ftouhi spent some time in public, unsecured areas of the airport before going to a restroom where he dropped two bags before attacking the officer with a 12-inch knife that had an 8-inch serrated blade, Gelios said.
Ftouhi never went through any security screening, Gelios said. He described Ftouhi as “cooperative” and talking to investigators.
Witnesses described seeing the suspect being led away as Neville was bleeding, a knife on the ground. Officials called this a traumatic incident but also commended the passersby who rushed to the aide of Neville, as well as the law enforcement.
“The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck,” Ken Brown told The Flint Journal. “I said they need to get him a towel.”
Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing “blank, just totally blank.”
Miller, the airport chief, said Neville “fought him to the end,” managing to stop the stabbing and bring Ftouhi to the ground as Miller and other officers arrived to help.
Genesee County Commissioner Mark Young, a friend of Neville’s who retired from the Genesee County sheriff’s office in 1997, said Neville left that department two years after him. He said Neville served in various capacities with the sheriff’s office including in the jail, on road patrol and as a court officer. Neville retired from that department as a lieutenant.
Young said he headed to the airport when he learned about the stabbing Wednesday.
“Things were chaotic, but very well organized and under control — how the sheriff’s department was handling things and how Bishop International was handling things,” he said.
A few miles away, officials stationed police officers at Flint City Hall after the incident. Mayor Karen Weaver said in a release the situation was “under control” but that officials sought to take “extra precautions.”