Lon­don at­tacker cheer­ful, jok­ing on eve of ram­page

Po­lice are try­ing to learn what made him rad­i­cal­ized.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Paisely Dodds and Lori Hinnant

BIRM­ING­HAM, ENG­LAND — Long be­fore his short stints in jail turned into years be­hind bars, Khalid Ma­sood was known as Adrian Elms, with a rep­u­ta­tion for drink­ing and an un­pre­dictable tem­per.

At least twice, he was con­victed of vi­o­lent crimes, well be­fore he stabbed a po­lice of­fi­cer to death Wed­nes­day in Lon­don with a mo­tion that one hor­ri­fied wit­ness de­scri b ed as “play­ing a drum on your back with two knives.”

But as he checked out of his ho­tel to head to­ward Lon­don for his deadly ram­page, the man­ager said he was struck by his guest’s friendly man­ner.

Within hours, Ma­sood drove his rented SUV across the crowded West­min­ster Bridge, leav­ing a trail of dead and wounded. Then he jumped out and at­tacked Con­sta­ble Keith Palmer, an of­fi­cer guard­ing Par­lia­ment, stab­bing him to death be­fore be­ing shot to death by po­lice.

In all, he killed four peo- ple and left more than two dozen hos­pi­tal­ized.

Ma­sood, who at 52 is con­sid­er­ably older than most

ex­trem­ists who carry out blood­shed in the West, had an ar­rest record dat­ing to 1983. The vi­o­lence came later, first in 2000 when he slashed a man across the face in a pub park­ing lot in a racially charged ar­gu­ment af­ter drink­ing four pints, ac­cord­ing to a news­pa­per ac­count.

The vic­tim, Piers Mott, was scarred for life, said his widow, Heather.

Ma­sood’s last con­vic­tion was in 2003, also in­volv­ing a knife at­tack. It’s not clear when he took the name Ma­sood, sug­gest­ing a con­ver­sion to Is­lam.

Heather Mott said Ma­sood ap­peared to come out of jail “even worse.” She said she got chills when she learned the iden­tity of the Lon­don at­tacker.

“What a pity they didn’t re­al­ize he was a nut­ter,” she said.

Po­lice are comb­ing through “mas­sive amounts of com­puter data” and have con­tacted 3,500 wit­nesses as they look for clues as to why the Bri­tish-born man launched the deadly at­tack.

“Clearly, that’s a main line of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion is what led him to be rad­i­cal­ized: Was it through in­flu­ences in our com­mu­nity, in­flu­ences from over­seas or through on­line pro­pa­ganda? Our in­ves­ti­ga­tions and our ar­rests will help in that, but the pub­lic ap­peal will make a big dif­fer­ence if peo­ple come for­ward with more in­for­ma­tion,” said Bri­tain’s top coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cer, Mark Row­ley.

A se­cu­rity of­fi­cial who spoke Fri­day on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak about an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed that Ma­sood had spent time in Saudi Ara­bia but said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were still try­ing to de­ter­mine how long he stayed and what he was do­ing.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said Ma­sood was “in­ves­ti­gated in re­la­tion to con­cerns about vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism” years ago. But she called him “a pe­riph­eral fig­ure.”

The Is­lamic State group de­scribed Ma­sood as “a sol­dier,” claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack.

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