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Suspect in Times Square machete attack on New Year’s Eve arrested and faces attempted murder charges

<i>WABC</i><br/>Trevor Bickford is being held by New York City police as the suspect in a machete attack against three police officers New Year's Eve.
Trevor Bickford is being held by New York City police as the suspect in a machete attack against three police officers New Year's Eve.

By Celina Tebor, Eric Levenson and John Miller, CNN

The 19-year-old suspect accused of attacking New York police officers with a machete near Times Square on New Year’s Eve has been arrested and faces charges of attempted murder of a police officer.

Police are recommending the suspect, Trevor Bickford, be charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer and two counts of attempted assault in the attack, the New York Police Department said.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has said that they do not yet have details of when Bickford will be arraigned. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.

The formal arrest comes two days after Bickford allegedly attacked police officers at a security screening area outside Times Square, the center of the city’s famed New Year’s Eve celebrations.

A diary was found in the suspect’s backpack, which had been left on the street and placed in a pile with other backpacks that had been taken from people trying to enter security checkpoints around Times Square, multiple law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the case said.

The diary ends with a last will and testament, according to the source. The final entry, dated December 31, begins with, “This will likely be my last entry,” and goes on to leave instructions on how to divide the author’s belongings among his family and instructions for his burial.

The diary expressed a desire to join the Taliban and it criticized his brother for joining the US military, the sources said.

“There was a time when we were close but that time has since passed,” writings in the diary say, according to the sources. “You have joined the ranks of my enemy.”

The suspect also worried his mother would not repent to Allah, according to another writing in the diary, the sources said.

“And therefore I hold hope in my heart that a piece of you believes so that you may be taken out of the hellfire,” he wrote, according to the sources.

Police say attack happened around 10 p.m.

Just after 10 p.m. he went to the Times Square checkpoint at West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue where officers check bags for weapons or suspicious items, NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and police said.

At the security area, Bickford 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 the sources and the NYPD. The officers have been treated and released.

For the past two days, Bickford had been in custody and under police guard at Bellevue Hospital, where he was being treated for the gunshot wound, sources said.

Suspect was on terrorist watch list

Even before the attack, Bickford was on the FBI’s radar.

Bickford was interviewed by FBI agents in Maine in mid-December after he said he wanted to travel overseas to help fellow Muslims and was willing to die for his religion, according to multiple law enforcement sources.

Bickford’s mother and grandmother became increasingly concerned about his desire to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and reported this to the Wells, Maine, police department out of concern for him 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. 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.

His original destination was Miami, the sources said, but he stopped in New York and checked in at the Grand Hotel near the Bowery in Manhattan on December 29. He checked out on New Year’s Eve with all his luggage before allegedly conducting the Times Square machete attack, the sources said.

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