The hatchet attack on a group of NYPD officers in Queens last month, critically injuring one of them, is being considered an act of terror, FBI Director James Comey said Monday.
"There is no doubt it was terrorism," Comey said during a news conference at the Newark FBI offices.
Comey said the attack was politically and ideologically driven, with two separate motivations: the suspect, Zale Thompson, appeared to be seeking “inspiration from foreign terrorist sources like ISIL (ISIS), but there is also evidence he was focused on black separatist ideology.”
Comey pointed out most recently Thompson had spent a lot of time online reviewing ISIL beheading videos and similar radical jihadist propaganda, and that “there is no doubt that played a role.”
Earlier this month, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton also labeled the hatchet attack a self-radicalized terrorist incident.
Officer Kenneth Healey was wounded in the attack when a hatchet-wielding Thompson swung at a group of rookie officers posing for a picture by a freelance photographer in Jamaica. After being hospitalized and being sent to a rehabilitation center, Healey is now home continuing his recovery.
Comey also said at the conference Monday that ISIL terrorists continue to aspire to strike inside the U.S. but there is no specific plot at this time.
"They broadcast their hate in 23 different languages. They are very active in social media so that that’s the primary dimension of the ISIL threat," he said, describing the organization's "slick propoganda."
Comey made the comments one day after American aid worker Peter Kassig was beheaded by ISIL terrorists fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Comey’s visit to New Jersey is part of a nationwide itinerary to visit every FBI field office. He declined to speak about the so-called Bridgegate scandal involving aides of Gov. Chris Christie, or where the investigation stands. He also declined to speak about the Justice Department’s ongoing corruption investigation into Sen. Robert Menendez.
Comey, who grew up in New Jersey, did speak generally about New Jersey’s reputation for having corruption issues.
"I think sometimes New Jerseyans take a perverse pride in thinking we have a lot of public corruption here," he said. "I don’t mean to burst your bubble but we do this work all over the country."
And Comey defended the Justice Department and FBI amid ongoing criticism that investigators have not done enough to hold banking executives accountable for the mortgage mess that helped lead to the Great Recession.
“It’s different thing to write a newspaper column saying so and so had to know, must have known. That is not the world we operate in. We operate in a 'What can I prove they knew, and did they act with criminal intent?' Hard work.”
Comey said Wall Street corruption cases as well as cybersecurity attacks remain a priority along with corruption and terror investigations.