Trevor Bickford, the 19-year-old accused of attacking New York Police Department officers with a machete on New Year’s Eve, traveled to the city “in order to kill people and carry out jihad,” prosecutors say.
Bickford allegedly went to the Times Square checkpoint just after 10 p.m., authorities have said. At the security area, he allegedly pulled out a machete, struck one officer with the blade and another officer in the head with the handle, and then swung the blade at a third officer, who shot Bickford in the shoulder, according to law enforcement sources and the NYPD.
The three injured NYPD officers were hospitalized in stable condition and have been released, the department said.
Speaking at Bickford’s arraignment Wednesday, prosecutors said the suspect tried to grab a gun from an officer during the attack, but couldn’t get it out of the holster.
“The defendant admitted that he purposefully waited until he saw a moment when the officer was isolated and not near any civilian when he could attack him,” prosecutor Lucy Nicholas said in court.
Bickford, according to a criminal complaint, told authorities during his interview that he said “(Allahu) Akbar” before he walked up and hit the officer over the head with the weapon.
The suspect also allegedly said that all government officials were his target because in his mind, they “cannot be proper Muslims because the United States government supports Israel,” prosecutors said.
Bickford appeared via video feed from his hospital bed at Bellevue Hospital, where sources previously said he was being treated for the gunshot wound.
He was formally charged with three counts of attempted murder in the first degree, one count of assault in the first degree, two counts of attempted assault in the first degree and three counts of assault in the second degree.
Bickford was remanded back into custody. No plea was entered.
Rosemary Vassallo-Vellucci, Bickford’s attorney with the Legal Aid Society, said her client is “presumed innocent” and argued he should be released on his own recognizance, highlighting his age, that he’s been in custody for more than 24 hours and has no arrest record.
Vassallo-Vellucci also mentioned the suspect’s alleged community ties, telling the judge he was living with his family in Maine and most recently worked at a golf course.
The Legal Aid Society said the suspect “has no prior contact with the criminal legal system.” The group said it had recently received details of the case from the District Attorney’s office and will have “more to say … after a thorough review and investigation.”
“For now, we ask the public to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions and to respect the privacy of our client’s family,” the group added.
Bickford had been on the FBI’s radar even before the attack, and was interviewed by federal agents in Maine last month after he said he wanted to travel overseas to help fellow Muslims and was willing to die for his religion, multiple law enforcement sources previously said.
Bickford’s mother and grandmother became concerned about his desire to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and reported this to the Wells, Maine, police department on December 10, the sources said.
When the FBI opened its wider investigation they also placed him on a terrorist watch list, according to sources.
But because the Taliban is not designated a foreign terrorist entity, planning to travel to Afghanistan to join the group does not constitute the federal crime of “attempted material support of a terrorist group.”
Multiple law enforcement sources told CNN that Bickford traveled to New York via Amtrak, so those travels would not have tripped any watch list databases.