Suspect in New Year’s Eve machete attack on police near New York’s Times Square expressed desire in diary to join Taliban, die a martyr, sources say
(CNN) — The 19-year-old being held by New York City police as the suspect in a New Year’s Eve machete attack against three police officers just outside a Times Square security screening zone carried a handwritten diary that expressed his desire to join the Taliban in Afghanistan and die as a martyr, law enforcement sources said.
Trevor Bickford remains in custody and under police guard at Bellevue Hospital, where he is being treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder sustained during the attack, sources said.
The three officers — injured at one of New York’s most high-profile events just a day after their department had warned of an “ISIS-Aligned” video calling for “Lone Offender Attacks” — have all been treated and released, according to the New York Police Department.
On Sunday, federal authorities from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office were discussing whether to charge Bickford federally or under state law or both in relation to the attack, the sources said.
The suspect has not been charged, and it is unclear whether he has an attorney. The US Attorney’s office declined to comment. CNN has reached out to the Manhattan DA’s office for comment.
Investigators believe Bickford arrived Thursday in New York and checked into a hotel on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the sources said. Then Saturday, he went just after 10 p.m. to the Times Square checkpoint at West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue where officers would check bags for weapons or suspicious items, NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and police said.
Bickford pulled out a machete, striking one officer with the blade and another officer in the head with the handle before swinging the blade at a third officer, who then shot him in the shoulder, according to the sources and the NYPD.
Investigators on Sunday were seeking search warrants for the suspect’s phone and online activities to determine if he had been viewing violent extremist propaganda, law enforcement sources said.
The NYPD had sent a bulletin Friday to law enforcement partners across the country titled, “ISIS-Aligned Media Unit Releases Video Ahead of New Year’s Eve, Demanding Lone Offender Attacks,” according to the sources. The video, being circulated in online chat rooms, shows “selected video clips, suggesting various means of attack, including explosives, handguns, knives, and toxins,” according to the bulletin, obtained by CNN.
It’s not clear if the checkpoint attack suspect has viewed terrorist propaganda. The tactics appear to follow a familiar model of prior attacks against New York City by lone offenders.
If deemed a terrorist attack, it would be the first by a suspected terrorist on the event in Times Square, one of the world’s most watched New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Bickford is from Wells, Maine, according to sources, a beach town with a population of just over 11,000 people.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the NYPD sent a bulletin about a video released by ISIS-aligned media. It was Friday.