Flint airport stabbing investigated as act of terror

Airport security officer who was stabbed was 'resting comfortably' later Wednesday

Police at the Bishop International Airport after a police officer was stabbed on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.


FLINT, Mich. (WOOD) — The FBI is investigating the stabbing of an airport police officer at the Bishop International Airport in Flint on Wednesday morning as an act of terrorism.

Authorities say the suspect, 49-year-old Amor Ftouhi of Canada, stabbed Lt. Jeff Neville with a 12-inch knife with an eight-inch serrated blade.

Neville underwent surgery and was later in “satisfactory condition” and “resting comfortably,” airport security said.

At an afternoon press conference outside the airport, FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios said Ftouhi yelled “Allahu Akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” before stabbing Neville in the neck. In a criminal complaint filed in federal court on Wednesday, another FBI agent wrote that Ftouhi continued to shout “Allah,” and said something along the lines of “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”

Neville “never stopped fighting” the suspect after he was stabbed, Airport Public Safety Director Chris Miller said.

“Lt. Neville got him to stop stabbing him. Lt. Neville fought him right till the end, until I was able to handcuff this person,” Miller said.

Miller said Airport Fire and Rescue Lt. Dan Owen and a maintenance man also helped take down the suspect.

“It was very terrifying to see something that quick,” Owen said. “Luckily, we were very, very close distance to respond and take care of the incident as quick as we can.”

According to the criminal complaint, Ftouhi asked the officer who subdued him why he didn’t kill him.

FBI: SUSPECT THOUGHT TO HAVE ACTED ALONE

Special Agent in Charge Gelios said Ftouhi was cooperating with authorities’ investigation. He said that during an interview, Ftouhi expressed hatred for the United States.

Amor Ftouhi
An undated photo of Amor Ftouhi courtesy his Facebook page.

Authorities believe he acted alone, with Gelios referring to him as a “lone wolf attacker.”

“We don’t believe anyone was involved with this individual,” the agent said. “We have no information to suggest a wider plot, but it’s certainly very early in the investigation.”

If anyone has information about the incident, they are asked to call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313.965.2323 or submit tips online.

Ftouhi — who the AP says is from Quebec — crossed the border into the United States at Lake Champlain in New York on June 16.

According to the criminal complaint, he entered the airport around 8:52 p.m., spent some time in a restaurant, then went into the bathroom with two bags. After a few minutes, he left the bags in the bathroom and attacked Neville around 9:38 a.m. The airport public safety director said there was no previous contact between the two.

Authorities said the blade he used never went through the Transportation Security Administration screening area. The suspect was only in the unsecured, public areas of the airport. There is no indication Ftouhi was a passenger or had a ticket to get on a plane.

Ftouhi faces a federal count of violence at an international airport and went before a judge to be formally charged Wednesday evening. The Associated Press reported that he would get a court-appointed attorney and remain in custody at least until a bond hearing on June 28.

LAW ENFORCEMENT PRAISED FOR QUICK, COORDINATED RESPONSE

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement saying he was “proud of the swift response from the FBI and our federal prosecutors and their partnership with local police and Canadian authorities” and promising that the Justice Department was committed to the safety of law enforcement officers.

Michigan State Police said Gov. Rick Snyder has been in contact with authorities about the stabbing.

On Twitter, Snyder condemned the attack and praised law enforcement and first responders working the case.

“It is my hope that we can come together as one Michigan in the face of this terrible incident, just as people did today at Bishop Airport,” he wrote. “Even with this attack, we must continue to balance our need for increased security with understanding and tolerance.”

After the stabbing, the airport was evacuated and closed for about six and a half hours. The airport director said five flights were impacted by the closures and no flights departed until after 4 p.m.

Anyone scheduled to fly out of Bishop International Airport was advised to check with their airline as the airport was still experiencing delays.

FORD AIRPORT REACTS TO ATTACK

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Cascade Township added extra security presence following the attack on Wednesday.

“It hits close to home being that Flint is right here in Michigan, it’s another airport. We have a lot of friends up in Flint,” said airport spokesperson Tara Hernandez.

The TSA didn’t issue an alert and the airport decided not to add any additional officers. Instead, officers on duty were moved to more visible locations. Hernandez said the increased security presence was to make passengers feel safe.

“We have more of our police officers that are on the curb out front, in the passenger areas. So just making sure that presence around is helpful too — puts passengers at ease,” added Hernandez.

The airport says the passengers themselves can be the best defense against an attack.

“If you see something suspicious, let our police officers know — grab a TSA officer, an airline agent,” Hernandez said.

–24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker and Lynsey Mukomel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.