Michigan airport stabbing probed as "lone wolf" terrorist attack, FBI says

Michigan airport stabbing

FLINT, Mich. -- A Canadian man from Tunisia accused of shouting "Allahu akbar" before stabbing a Michigan airport police officer remains in custody after appearing in federal court.

The attack Wednesday at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, is being investigated as an act of terrorism, but authorities have no indication at this time that the suspect was involved in a "wider plot," said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios.

"At this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker," Gelios said. "We have no information to suggest any training."

Amor Ftouhi is charged with committing violence at an airport.

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Amor Ftouhi has been charged in the stabbing of an officer at the Flint airport, the FBI said. Facebook

A judge found he was eligible to be appointed counsel and asked if he understood the charges against him, to which he replied, "I understand."

A lawyer said the 49-year-old Montreal resident has some understanding of English, but is mostly fluent in French. He was born in Tunisia and has dual citizenship of Tunisia and Canada. The lawyer said he's been in Canada for 10 years, has family in Tunisia and Switzerland, and is married and has three children. He was working on and off as a truck driver and last worked about two weeks ago, she said. He indicted no mental or physical health problems and no drug or alcohol use.

Ftouhi was ordered held until a detention hearing next Wednesday.

A criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife after yelling "Allahu akbar," the Arabic phrase for "God is great."

The FBI says Ftouhi said something similar to "you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die." A criminal complaint says Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why the officer didn't kill him.

Neville was stabbed in the neck. He's recovering at a hospital.

The FBI is still trying to determine Ftouhi's motive and how he came to be radicalized, reports CBS News' Paula Reid. His alleged statements during the attack suggest his motive could be a general grievance with the U.S. -- similar to Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- rather than a direct response to ISIS propaganda, Reid reports.

Officer injured in Michigan stabbing now in stable condition

At this point, there is also no indication that he was on law enforcement radar, Reid reports.

The attack occurred just before 10 a.m., prompting officials to evacuate and shut down the airport and add security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was briefed on the stabbing, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was "proud of the swift response" by authorities from both the U.S. and Canada.

Police in Canada were searching a Montreal apartment and Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boiselle said officers with their department were assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the search on behalf of an FBI request.

Boiselle said three people staying at the residence had been taken in for questioning.

Luciano Piazza, the building landlord, said Ftouhi was not a difficult tenant.

"I never had any problems with him," Piazza said. "I'm really surprised. I would see him at least once a month, when he paid his rent."

Gelios said Ftouhi legally entered the U.S. at Champlain, New York, on June 16 and made his way to the Flint airport on Wednesday morning.

Ftouhi spent some time in public, unsecured areas of the airport before going to a restroom where he dropped two bags before attacking the officer with a 12-inch knife that had an 8-inch serrated blade, Gelios said.

Reid reports a bomb squad examined the bags and found no evidence of explosives.

Ftouhi never went through any security screening, Gelios said. He described Ftouhi as "cooperative" and talking to investigators.

Witnesses described seeing the suspect being led away as Neville was bleeding, a knife on the ground.

"The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck," Ken Brown told The Flint Journal. "I said they need to get him a towel."

Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing "blank, just totally blank."

Miller, the airport chief, said Neville "fought him to the end," managing to stop the stabbing and bring Ftouhi to the ground as Miller and other officers arrived to help.

After the stabbing, officials stationed police officers at Flint City Hall a few miles away. Mayor Karen Weaver said in a release the situation was "under control" but that officials sought to take "extra precautions."

Genesee County Commissioner Mark Young, a friend of Neville's who retired from the county sheriff's office in 1997, said Neville left that department two years after him. He said Neville served in various capacities with the sheriff's office including in the jail, on road patrol and as a court officer.

Neville retired from the sheriff's office as a lieutenant.