Published June 22, 2017
The stabbing of a police officer at a Michigan airport Wednesday by a Canadian citizen who yelled "Allahu Akbar" and referenced people being killed in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan is being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism, officials said.
FBI Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios said at a news conference Amor Ftouhi, a 49-year-old Canadian citizen, entered Bishop International Airport in Flint around 9:45 a.m. and went to a restroom before dropping both of his bags, coming out with a knife and yelling "Allahu Akbar," the Arabic phrase for "God is great," before stabbing Officer Jeff Neville in the neck.
Ftouhi said something similar to "you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die" as he was being arrested, according to Gelios. He also used a 12-inch knife with an 8-inch serrated blade, he added.
The Canadian citizen was motivated to come to the airport and conduct this act of violence out of a "hatred of the United States," according to Gelios. He legally entered the U.S. at Lake Champlain in New York on June 16, and then made his way to Flint, according to Gelios.
Police in Canada were searching a Montreal apartment late Wednesday. Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boiselle told the Associated Press officers with their department were assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the search on behalf of an FBI request.
A number of police stood guard outside the apartment building in the east end of Montreal located in St-Michel borough. Canadian TV footage showed police escorting at least one person from the building where Ftouhi is believed to have lived.
Boiselle said three people staying at the residence had been taken in for questioning.
Luciano Piazza, the building landlord, said Ftouhi was not a difficult tenant and that he is married with children.
"I never had any problems with him," Piazza said. "I'm really surprised. I would see him at least once a month, when he paid his rent."
Federal prosecutors have charged Ftouhi with committing violence at an airport. The entire attack took place outside of the TSA screening area at the airport.
Flint Airport Director of Public Safety Christopher Miller said Neville is in "satisfactory condition," and "doing fine." Miller said Neville "fought him till the end" until the suspect was able to be handcuffed.
The FBI added in the criminal complaint that Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why he didn't kill him.
The FBI said this is believed to be an isolated incident and that there was "nothing to suggest a wider plot."
A White House official confirmed to Fox News that President Trump has been briefed on the stabbing.
"I want to assure all our law enforcement across the nation, any attack on someone who serves and protects our citizens will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "I am proud of the swift response from the FBI and our federal prosecutors and their partnership with local police and the Canadian authorities. Our prayers are with the officer and his family for a full recovery."
Law enforcement agencies in Canada are in touch with their U.S. counterparts and are assisting in every way possible, Canadian Embassy spokesperson Christine Constantin told Fox News. Constantin said Canada condemns this "heinous and cowardly act," and that "our thoughts and sympathies are with the officer and his loved ones."
Ken Brown told The Flint Journal he was dropping off his daughter at the airport and saw the officer bleeding from his neck. He says he saw a man detained by police and a knife on the ground.
"The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck," Brown said. "I said they need to get him a towel."
Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, tells 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."
Genesee County Commissioner Mark Young, a friend of Neville, called him "an honorable man" whom he worked with at the county Sheriff's Department, according to MLive.
Neville was a lieutenant with the airport's police department, said Young, who met with the victim's family and at the hospital today.
"As expected, they are shook up. They are concerned," he told MLive.
The FBI is the lead agency on the scene. State police troopers, along with ATF agents, are also at the airport investigating.
The airport was closed for several hours as a result of the stabbing. The airport posted Wednesday on Facebook that passengers were safe and were being told to check for flight delays or cancellations.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder asked state residents to "keep the attacked officer in your thoughts and prayers" on Twitter.
The stabbing is the second evacuation at Bishop International Airport this month. In the previous incident, the airport terminal was evacuated June 8 after officers noticed a suspicious bag. The bag turned out to contain nothing dangerous.
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. He said once he got there, he "tried to assess and work with emergency management and emergency response teams from the sheriff's department, kind of trying to see what was going on."
"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."
Fox News' Jake Gibson, Catherine Herridge, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.