Motive Remains Unclear Behind Possible Terror Suspect's Knife Assault on Officers: NYPD

New video of the attack is one example of suspected extremist violence being investigated that took place during the recent protests

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What to Know

  • Three NYPD officers were hospitalized after what Commissioner Dermot Shea called a cowardly and unprovoked knife attack on a cop in Brooklyn
  • The attack happened around 11:45 p.m. when an officer radioed for help on Flatbush and Church streets
  • 22 shots were fired in the fray; the suspect was hit eight times and was critically injured

Authorities investigating Wednesday night's stabbing of an NYPD officer in Brooklyn say body-worn camera video recorded the suspect yelling "Allahu Akbar" three times during the attack, NYPD officers said Saturday.

Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller says there are many unknowns behind the possible terror-inspired attack, including the suspect's motive. The man behind the alleged attack, Dzenan Camovic of Brooklyn, had very little social media presence before that attack and he remains in critical condition after being shot by police following the attack.

Camovic has been charged with attempted murder of an officer, robbery, assault of an officer, criminal possession of a weapon, and reckless endangerment.

"We can't tie him to any organization, we can't discern any specific motive," Miller said. He said there's two thing they've seen, the engagement of videos involving protests and policy brutality, and Camovic's statements at the scene.

Police say that Camovic started a Twitter account days before the stabbing and liked a number of videos tied the the protests in New York. Miller said Camovic "has likes for 24 things which are all concerning the protests movement, videos of police brutality, video from the SOHO looting, videos from the New York protests, videos from instances from across the country of videos related to people killed by police."

Miller believes the suspect has more of a "blended ideology" from terrorism groups but that more investigation is needed.

The phrase Allahu Akbah is loosely translated to "God is great" and is an everyday phrase spoken by those of the Islamic faith to profess their adoration for god. It has been at times associated with terrorism attacks because extremist groups have stolen the phrase and have said it in commission of their attacks.

Two law enforcement officials said that while Camovic was not on law enforcement's radar, he may have been associated with individuals of concern.

Two officers had been on anti-looting patrol near Church and Flatbush avenues around 11:45 p.m. when law enforcement officials say the 20-year-old suspect slashed one of the cops in the neck with a knife. At some point, shots were fired and a nearby sergeant responded. When the sergeant got to the scene, one of the other officer's guns was in the suspect's hand, Shea said.

More gunfire went off. Shea said a total of 22 shots were fired. Two officers were struck in the hand. They and the stabbed cop were taken to a hospital in stable condition. The suspect was hit eight times and was said to be critically hurt. His name has not been released but police say he is from Brooklyn. Officials say he has no prior criminal record.

Investigators believe multiple officers fired their guns but it's unclear if the suspect fired the service weapon he grabbed from the officer who was stabbed. Law enforcement officials say the confrontation was captured on body cameras.

"We know we had a chaotic scene, with a knife recovered as well," Shea said. "Thank God we're not planning a funeral right now."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that all three cops are expected to survive their injuries.

Aside from the 22 shell casings, all from department-issued guns, there were also “unfired bullets on the ground," according to officials. Shea says the NYPD is working with both the state and federal prosecutor at this point in the investigation. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has also joined the probe.

Separately from that probe, New Jersey's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness issued a bulletin Thursday, cautioning that Islamic extremist groups were trying to exploit racial and other tensions in the United States to drive their ideologies.

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