As millions gathered around Times Square to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, a Maine resident radicalized by a fundamentalist vision of Islam attacked and wounded police with a “machete-style” blade, federal prosecutors said.
The accused terrorist, Trevor Thomas Bickford, now faces four charges that could put the 19-year-old behind bars for up to 80 years.
“Striking Each of Them in the Head”
In announcing the charges, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the “jihad-inspired attack” targeted three New York City police officers who were part of the joint federal-state law enforcement operation protecting the Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
“We are deeply grateful for the bravery of the officers who were injured in this horrible attack and who put their lives on the line every day to serve their communities,” Garland said in a statement.
Known as a “kukri,” the machete-like weapon that Bickford allegedly used has a sharp curve, is more than one foot long, and is reputed to be a national symbol of Nepal.
A still frame from police body camera footage embedded in Bickford’s criminal complaint appeared to capture the suspect in the act.
Bickford had been about 10 blocks north of One Times Square at around 10:10 p.m. Eastern Time on New Year’s Eve, at the access checkpoint in the vicinity of 52nd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to the complaint. Federal and state law enforcement had been protecting the area, when Bickford allegedly approached an unidentified “Officer-1” and shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.” Bickford then struck that NYPD officer with the kukri, according to the complaint.
“Bickford then attacked Officer-2 and Officer-3, striking each of them in the head with the kukri,” the complaint continues. “After being attacked, one of the officers was able to create some distance between himself and Bickford, and shot Bickford in the right shoulder, thereby stopping the attack. Bickford was then taken into NYPD custody.”
Prosecutors say that all three officers had to be taken to the hospital.
“One officer suffered ringing in his ears, pain to the back of his head, and a laceration, where Bickford had struck him with the handle of the kukri,” the complaint states. Another officer suffered a skull fracture and laceration on the back of his head and received stitches. The third officer suffered lacerations to his forehead and also received multiple stitches.”
“Joined the Ranks of My Enemy”
The FBI believes the attack was the culmination of a radicalization for Bickford that spanned only a few months. Bickford allegedly “began accessing and consuming materials espousing radical Islamic ideology” in the summer of 2022, including the teachings of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a radical cleric prosecutors describe as a spiritual mentor of al-Qaida.
“Over the ensuing months, Bickford radicalized, devoting himself to violent Islamic extremism and waging jihad,” the complaint states.
In November 2022, Bickford considered going “overseas to support the Taliban and took steps towards traveling to, among other places, Afghanistan” — and he later expressed that interest to his older brother, a soldier in the U.S. military, according to the complaint.
Bickford eventually thought the brother “joined the ranks of my enemy,” and told him so, a footnote of the complaint indicates.
Prosecutors say that Bickford already had been on the FBI’s radar on the month of the attack because of concerns from his family members.
“Specifically, according to certain of Bickford’s family members, Bickford had recently converted to Islam and begun frequenting mosques in and around Maine and New Hampshire, where Bickford resided with different family members,” the complaint says. “Bickford also began researching the Taliban and expressed interest in traveling to Afghanistan to join the Taliban. Bickford purchased a crossbow that he planned to bring with him to Afghanistan. Bickford believed that he was obligated by the Islamic religion to practice shooting that weapon every day.”
The FBI says that Bickford booked a flight to Jordan for Dec. 12, 2022, which he ultimately did not board.
Bickford allegedly announced his motive in an interview with law enforcement.
“After being treated at a local hospital, during a subsequent Mirandized interview, Bickford declared that he carried out the attack for the purpose of waging jihad and that Bickford’s mission involved targeting military-aged men who worked for the U.S. Government and killing as many such officials as he could,” the complaint states.
He faces four counts of attempted murder of officers and employees of the U.S. Government, each of which carries a possible 20 year sentence.
Read the criminal complaint below.
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