The man who stabbed a police lieutenant in a Flint, Michigan, airport Wednesday morning shouted “Al-lah Akbar” and blamed the United States for killing people in the Middle East, as the officer fought back and helped subdue his attacker.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, authorities described what they are investigating as a terror attack by Amor Ftouhi, a Canadian, on Lt. Jeff Neville, a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. Ftouhi is in police custody. Neville underwent surgery and is in stable condition, and expected to fully recover.
Ftouhi, approximately 50 years of age, entered the United States on Friday. At 9:45 a.m. Wednesday morning, he came to the Bishop International Airport in Flint armed with a 12-inch knife that had an 8-inch serrated blade, according to David Gelios, the FBI special agent in charge of the Detroit division.
Ftouhi spent some time in the airport – in a bathroom, where he left some bags he was carrying, and in a restaurant – before encountering Neville in an area of the airport accessible to the public, before the TSA screening stations. Ftouhi did not speak to Neville, but simply “went up to the officer” and stabbed him in the neck, said Gelios. As he attacked Neville, Ftouhi exclaimed “Al-lah Akbar,” and “made a statement something to the effect of, ‘You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die,’ ” said Gelios.
Neville resisted his attacker. “He never stopped fighting,” said Bishop Airport Police Chief Chris Miller. Neville and three others in the area – Miller, Lt. Dan Owen of the airport Fire and EMS services, and a maintenance worker – fought and subdued Ftouhi until Miller could handcuff him.
Ftouhi has been charged with unlawfully using a device to commit an act of violence at an international airport that could have or did cause serious injury, which carries a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.
Upon interrogation, Ftouhi made no secret of what drove him to carry out the attack.
“We interviewed [Ftouhi] for a good period of time,” said Gelios. “He was cooperative and has talked to us about what his motivations were. Suffice it to say he has a hatred for the United States and a variety of other things which motivated him to come to the airport today to conduct this act of violence.”
Gelios said that authorities are investigating the attack “as an act of terrorism.” At this very early stage of the investigation, there is no indication that Ftouhi was on any terror watch list or known to authorities for any reason, he said.
Authorities thus far have no indication that this was part of a wider plot, or that anyone else was involved. Investigators are seeking search warrants for Ftouhi’s “electronic media [and] for his vehicle,” said Gelios, to see if Ftouhi had been in communication with anyone about his plans, but “at this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker.”
“It’s a sad day,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, “but it could have been worse, and thanks to the quick response” of law enforcement, “things weren’t any worse.”
The airport was evacuated and searched with K-9 units. The mayor’s office said that security was also increased at Flint City Hall, out of “an abundance of caution.”
The airport was closed to takeoffs until 4:00 p.m., but operations have resumed, said Airport Director Craig Williams. However, there are still delays, and Williams said passengers should check flight status with the airline.