The man who allegedly attacked a police lieutenant with a knife at the Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, on Wednesday is 49-year-old Amor Ftouhi of Montreal, Canada.
He has been charged in U.S. federal court with committing violence at an international airport, with a bond hearing set for next Wednesday. The attack is being investigated as an act of terrorism. The charge currently pending against him could put him in jail for up to 20 years.
“At this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker. We have no information to suggest any training,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios said on Thursday.
According to the FBI charging document, Ftouhi yelled, “Allahu akbar!” before attacking police officer Jeff Neville from behind with a 12-inch “Amazon jungle survival” knife.
Neville was stabbed repeatedly, including a strike to the neck, but he fought back throughout the attack. He underwent surgery and has been listed in stable condition. The director of the airport stated he was “doing very well” on Thursday.
Ftouhi yelled the world “Allah” several times during the struggle and also said something the FBI paraphrased as, “You have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”
“Lt. Neville never stopped fighting until I handcuffed this person, along with Lt. Neville, Lt. Dan Owens and maintenance person, Richard Cruell. The four of us were able to subdue this person, get him handcuffed and get him under control,” said Bishop Airport public safety chief Chris Miller. Ftouhi is said to have asked the officers why they subdued him instead of killing him.
The attack happened just a few feet from a shoe-shine shop run by a man named Joe Garza for the last 35 years. He told WJRT News the attack happened soon after he exchanged his usual good mornings with Lt. Neville.
“He does that all the time, but I was not expecting this other guy to come back behind him and try to butcher him,” said Garza. “That big ol’ knife, he had some bad intentions. You don’t carry a knife that big and think that he’s coming in there to bless you with it right?”
Garza said he acted quickly to become involved in the struggle because Ftouhi’s unusual handling of his bags already raised his suspicions. According to a detailed timetable of the attack published by ClickOnDetroit, Ftouhi was carrying a red duffel bag and dark satchel when he entered the airport at 8:52 A.M. He spent about half an hour at a restaurant on the second floor of the airport, left his bags in a public restroom, and emerged to attack Neville within 60 seconds. The other safety officers were close at hand because they were working with Neville on setting up a meeting.
“Investigators would not discuss what was inside the bags,” the ClickOnDetroit report states. Canadian police have been likewise reluctant to discuss what they found when they searched his apartment in Montreal.
Ftouhi is a dual citizen of Canada and Tunisia who has lived in the same Montreal neighborhood for about ten years, with a wife and three children. He has a mother and several siblings in Tunisia and a sister who lives in Switzerland.
His neighbors and landlord described him as quiet and friendly, although a woman who spoke to the Montreal Gazette said he “looked unsociable.”
According to a Flint Patch profile, he is a truck driver by trade, while Canada’s CTV News cites Facebook posts in which Ftouhi said he worked at insurance company Industrielle Alliance. His primary language is French, although he speaks a little English.
“He’s a socially positive person. He’s looking for a good life for him and his family. That’s all,” said one of his Facebook friends.
Ftouhi reportedly drove from Montreal to Flint, passing through Quebec, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio along the way. The drive would have taken over ten hours, which leads investigators to wonder if he made any stops along the way. Also, he began his journey on Friday, which raises questions about where he stayed and what he did before attacking at the airport on Wednesday. It is not yet clear why he chose Flint or the Bishop Airport for his attack.
“I think it’s sufficient to say he has a hatred for the United States and a variety of other things, which in part motivated him toward coming to the airport to conduct this act of violence,” Special Agent in Charge Gelios said of his motivations.
CNN reported on Thursday that Ftouhi attempted to purchase a gun after arriving in the Flint area but was denied because he is not a U.S. citizen. The article states that Ftouhi was not on the “radar screens” of either Canadian or American security services.