NEW YORK — A man accused of attacking police with a machete near New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve is now facing federal terrorism charges, federal authorities announced late Tuesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a release that Trevor Thomas Bickford was now charged with federal crimes in connection with his self-declared efforts to wage jihad by killing U.S. government officials and his knife attack on three police officers in Times Square.
Bickford was already charged with attempting to murder police officers, assault and attempted assault in state court in Manhattan. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence.
What we know so far
State prosecutors have said Bickford shouted “Allahu akbar” at about 10 p.m. before striking one officer in the head and attempting to grab another officer’s gun. He was shot by police during the confrontation and was held without bail after he was arraigned by video from a Manhattan hospital.
Bickford was reportedly influenced by Islamic extremists in the months before the attack.
Prosecutors said during a hearing that Bickford came to New York “in order to kill people and carry out Jihad.”
In court documents, prosecutors also outline parts of an interview with Bickford after the attack.
“I wanted to kill an officer in uniform. I saw the officer and waited until he was alone,” Bickford told officers. “I said, ‘Allauh 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.”
All three injured officers are expected to recover.
One of the officers, who suffered a fractured skull during the attack, had just graduated from the police academy Friday and was on his first day on the job.
Police believe Bickford acted alone. The FBI is investigating reports that he had been radicalized online by Islamic extremists.
A high-ranking police source told CBS News Bickford was placed on the terrorist watchlist after his aunt reported that he’d been radicalized online and expressed a desire to travel overseas and join Islamic extremists. Bickford, 19, of Wells, Maine, had decided in November to wage jihad against U.S. officials and officials of other governments he thought to be anti-Muslim, authorities said.
The Legal Aid Society, a public defender organization representing Bickford, has urged the public “to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions and to respect the privacy of our client’s family.”
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called the New Year’s Eve assault on the police officers a “senseless attack.”
Bickford was charged with four counts of attempted murder of officers and employees of the U.S. government and people assisting them. Each charge carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.
BDN writer Leela Stockley contributed to this report.