Air­port po­lice of­fi­cer is stabbed

The as­sailant yelled ‘God is great’ in Ara­bic be­fore the at­tack in Flint, Mich., au­thor­i­ties say.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Melissa Ete­had melissa.ete­had@la­times.com

A knife-wield­ing man who stabbed a po­lice of­fi­cer in the neck with­out warn­ing at a Michi­gan air­port Wed­nes­day shouted, “Al­lahu ak­bar,” be­fore the at­tack, and the event is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated as an act of ter­ror­ism, au­thor­i­ties said.

David Ge­lios, the FBI spe­cial agent in charge, said the as­sailant shouted the phrase, which is Ara­bic for “God is great,” be­fore wound­ing the of­fi­cer at Bishop In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Flint.

Ge­lios said wit­nesses re­ported that the at­tacker also shouted words to the ef­fect of, “You killed peo­ple in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and we are all go­ing to die.”

Po­lice Lt. Jeff Neville of the air­port’s Public Safety De­part­ment fought his at­tacker un­til the man was sub­dued. Neville un­der­went surgery and was re­ported to be in sat­is­fac­tory con­di­tion.

Ge­lios, in a tele­vised news con­fer­ence, iden­ti­fied the as­sailant as Amor Ftouhi, 50, of Canada. Ftouhi en­tered the United States legally on June 16 at Lake Cham­plain, N.Y., he said.

The chief of the air­port’s Public Safety De­part­ment, Chris Miller, said Ftouhi gave no warn­ing and did not en­gage with Neville be­fore he at­tacked him with a 8inch-long blade. “He just started stab­bing,” Miller said.

Miller said he was nearby when the at­tack be­gan near the pre­screen­ing area and, along with three others, sub­dued the man as Neville fought back. “Lt. Neville never stopped fight­ing,” he said. He con­tin­ued fight­ing un­til Ftouhi was in hand­cuffs, Miller said.

Ge­lios said that be­fore the at­tack Ftouhi had wan­dered around public parts of the air­port, just out­side the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion screen­ing area. He was carrying bags, and went in­side a re­stroom, where he left the bags. He came out and went af­ter Neville, Ge­lios said.

So far, it ap­pears that Ftouhi acted alone and did not have spe­cial­ized train­ing, but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing, Ge­lios said.

The air­port was shut down for sev­eral hours as in­ves­ti­ga­tors combed the crime scene.

Justin Mar­shall, 36, was fly­ing on Delta Air Lines from At­lanta to Bishop In­ter­na­tional Air­port when the flight at­ten­dant told pas­sen­gers that an in­ci­dent had oc­curred and they wouldn’t be al­lowed to land right away.

“We cir­cled the air­port for 20 min­utes,” he said in a phone in­ter­view.

“They didn’t tell us right away what hap­pened,” said Mar­shall, who lives about an hour north of Flint. He said the at­ten­dant then said the plane would still have to cir­cle for an ad­di­tional 15 min­utes.

The at­ten­dant later said “that an in­di­vid­ual had forced their way to a se­cure area of the air­port,” he said. “We didn’t know a po­lice of­fi­cer had been stabbed un­til other pas­sen­gers man­aged to go on­line.”

Mar­shall, who is vice pres­i­dent of ad­vance­ment and alumni re­la­tions at North­wood Univer­sity in Mid­land, Mich., said that af­ter the flight landed, he and his fel­low pas­sen­gers had to wait about 45 min­utes un­til they de­planed and were es­corted by po­lice of­fi­cers and TSA agents.

He said about 20 po­lice of­fi­cers and TSA agents had lined the gate where the pas­sen­gers waited to get their checked bag­gage.

“Ev­ery­one was calm and or­derly and un­der­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “We were mostly con­cerned about the of­fi­cer.”

Ex­pres­sions of sup­port for Neville came from all over.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all of our law en­force­ment of­fi­cers who work to ser­vice and pro­tect us each and every day,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “I want the public to know that sev­eral agen­cies are in­volved and work­ing to en­sure the sit­u­a­tion is un­der con­trol.”

Michi­gan Gov. Rick Sny­der said on Twit­ter: “As we wait to learn more about the in­ci­dent at Bishop Air­port, please keep the at­tacked of­fi­cer in your thoughts & prayers.”

There is a rel­a­tively large Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in Flint, and many res­i­dents de­scribe their re­la­tion­ship with the greater com­mu­nity and law en­force­ment as gen­er­ally pos­i­tive. But with anti-Mus­lim in­ci­dents on the rise in the U.S. — and re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tacks over­seas — some lo­cal res­i­dents worry about pos­si­ble back­lash against Mus­lims.

Muna Jondy, a spokes­woman for the Flint Is­lamic Cen­ter, es­ti­mated that there are as many as 3,000 Mus­lims in Flint.

She said some are con­cerned that the at­tack on Neville will prompt re­tal­ia­tory vi­o­lence, es­pe­cially as Mus­lims gather for latenight ac­tiv­i­ties at mosques as the holy month of Ra­madan winds down this week­end.

“Po­lice chiefs here called Is­lamic cen­ters in Flint ask­ing how we are do­ing ” and of­fered to pro­vide ex­tra se­cu­rity for evening prayers, Jondy said.

Dawud Walid, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Michi­gan chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, a lead­ing Mus­lim civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, said acts of vi­o­lence are of­ten per­ceived dif­fer­ently depend­ing on the per­pe­tra­tor’s back­ground or re­li­gion. Such a dou­ble stan­dard ex­ists, he said, par­tic­u­larly when the sus­pect is a Mus­lim or a per­son of color.

“If the at­tacker is white, it’s pre­sumed as a lone man who has men­tal prob­lems, but that doubt is not given to an al­leged at­tacker who is Mus­lim,” he said. “There is a col­lec­tive guilt as­signed, as if the Mus­lim com­mu­nity must apol­o­gize for the ac­tion that we had noth­ing to do with.”

Jake May Flint Jour­nal

PO­LICE search a park­ing lot af­ter the knife at­tack at Bishop In­ter­na­tional Air­port. The wounded of­fi­cer is in sat­is­fac­tory con­di­tion.

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