(NEW YORK) — A Maine teenager charged in a New Year’s Eve machete attack on three New York City cops near Times Square was arraigned from a hospital bed on Wednesday as an unsealed criminal complaint alleges he “wanted to kill an officer in uniform.”
Trevor Bickford, 19, who was shot in the shoulder during Saturday night’s rampage as he allegedly shouted “Allahu Akhbar” while wielding a curved 18-inch kukri knife, was arraigned on charges of attempted murder, assault and attempted assault. If convicted, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Bickford of Wells, Maine, carried out what a senior police official told ABC News was a terror attack likely motivated by Islamic extremism.
“I wanted to kill an officer in uniform,” Bickford allegedly told police, according to the criminal complaint. “I saw the officer and waited until he was alone. I said ‘Allahu Akbar.’ I walked up and hit him over the head with a kukri. I charged another officer but dropped the knife and I tried to get the police officer’s gun but couldn’t.”
Bickford did not enter a plea during Wednesday’s hospital room hearing. He was represented by an attorney from the Legal Aid Society who noted Bickford’s lack of criminal history and that his employment history includes working at a golf course in Maine.
“Earlier today, Mr. Bickford was arraigned from Bellevue Hospital after languishing in NYPD custody for nearly four days despite a well-established court requirement that an arraignment take place within 24-hours of arrest,” the Legal Aid Society said in a statement Wednesday. “We’ve just received initial discovery from the District Attorney’s office, and we’ll have more to say about this case after a thorough review and investigation. For now, we ask the public to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions and to respect the privacy of our client’s family.”
The suspect was ordered be to be held without bail by a Manhattan judge, who determined Bickford to be “a significant flight risk.”
During the arraignment, prosecutors alleged that Bickford said all government officials “cannot be proper Muslims because of U.S. support for Israel.”
“He knew what he was doing. He knew why he was doing it and he thought he would die in the attack,” Thomas Galati, NYPD Chief of Intelligence and Counterterrorism, told ABC News, this week.
Galati said the FBI interviewed Bickford last month in Maine after his mother reported her concern that her son was possibly becoming radicalized. The FBI determined Bickford wanted to fight in Afghanistan and placed him on a federal watch list to prevent him from travelling overseas.
Instead, Bickford acquired a large sum of cash, packed a machete and boarded a train to New York on Dec. 29. He arrived with what Galati described as intent to carry out an attack on “police officers or anybody in uniform,” seeming to advance jihadist propaganda that has called for such attacks using low-tech tactics like stabbings.
A diary found at the scene indicated Bickford thought he would die a martyr, law enforcement sources told ABC News. He ended up shot in the shoulder by an officer on the force just eight months.
“So the event happens outside the secure zone, not inside Times Square,” Galati said. “Means that our plan works.”
But some counterterrorism experts said the attack is yet another example of law enforcement, more than 20 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, being unable to deal with threats they are aware of prior to an attack. Other examples include the Nov. 19 Colorado Springs nightclub shooting, the 2018 Parkland, Florida, high school massacre and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.
Though the circumstances and law enforcement agencies were different, the problem and results are the same, said John Cohen, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security acting undersecretary for intelligence, and a former police officer and detective.
“It has become increasingly clear that the protocols used by federal and local authorities to assess the risk posed by individuals who exhibit threat-related behaviors is out of date and inconsistent with the current threat facing the nation,” said Cohen, an ABC News contributor.
“Yet again we have experienced a mass casualty attack by an individual who was known to law enforcement, who had exhibited the warning signs but was not subject to a threat management strategy. Unfortunately this has become an all too common occurrence and too many communities have suffered as a result,” Cohen said.
Cohen said traditional approaches to disrupting international terror plots do not seem to work when dealing with “ideologically motivated, domestic offenders.”
“How many mass casualty attacks need to occur before we change our approach to assessing and managing risk?” Cohen said.
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