Federal attempted murder charges filed against Mainer arrested in New Year’s Eve machete attack

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 8:26 AM EST
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Trevor Bickford, a 19-year-old man from Wells, Maine, arrested for attacking three New York City police officers near Times Square on New Year’s Eve with a large knife is now facing federal charges in a complaint that describes him as an Islamic extremist determined to carry out a jihad-style attack on Americans.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday charging Bickford with four counts of attempted murder of officers and employees of the U.S. Government but no charges alleging that he was affiliated with or advancing the cause of any specific terrorist group.

If convicted, Bickford could face up to 80 years in prison on the federal charges.

“We allege that the defendant plotted a jihad-inspired attack targeting U.S. government officials,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a written statement. “The Justice Department will continue to work to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute those who target and attack law enforcement and endanger the American people.”

Following his arrest on December 31, Bickford was already facing 18 state charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney, ranging from assault on a police officer as an act of terrorism to attempted murder.

The new 15-page federal complaint offers the most detailed, on the record narrative to date of Bickford’s purported Islamic radicalization in the past year, his alleged plans to wage violent jihad, and what FBI agents say he told them before and after the attack.

In the Manhattan confrontation, around 10:10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve,, on 52nd Street and 8th Avenue, Bickford’s weapon, a “kukri,” a curved knife similar to a machete, had a blade more than one foot long, according to the complaint.

Bickford yelled in Arabic, “Allahu Akbar,” (“God is great”) as he started his attack, then struck and wounded the three NYPD officers and tried to remove a gun from one officer’s holster, according to the complaint. The attack ended when the first officer shot Bickford in the shoulder.

The FBI complaint includes frame grabs from police body-worn cameras.

The complaint depicts Bickford as a recent Muslim convert who frequented mosques in Southern Maine and New Hampshire and on his own became dedicated to violent Islamic extremism and waging jihad against governments that oppress Muslims, including the U.S. Government and military-age men who work for it.

The complaint asserts Bickford was influenced by the teachings and YouTube videos of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a prominent radical Islamic cleric from Jordan described as a spiritual mentor of al Qaeda and to Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the initial leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed in 2006 U.S. air strike.

The complaint says Al-Maqdisi has been imprisoned in Jordan multiple times, including on terrorism charges for conspiring to attack American targets in Jordan.

Bickford allegedly left a handwritten note for members of the New Hampshire mosque he attended most frequently urging them to read a book by al-Maqsidi, Millat Ibrahim, which is said to encourage violent jihad, and a bag Bickford carried in New York contained a copy of that book, according to the complaint.

Bickford had intended to travel to Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban, according to the complaint, which says he texted those plans to his brother, who is enlisted in the U.S. military, and told a family member he intended to become a suicide bomber for his religion in Afghanistan or Jordan.

Earlier, Bickford had texted his brother about his own desire to enlist in the U.S. military to enable him to fight foreign governments that oppress Muslims, but as he further radicalized, Bickford wanted to target U.S. officials and accused his brother of having “joined the ranks of my enemy,” according to the complaint.

To prepare for his travels, Bickford bought and practiced with a crossbow the FBI found in his family’s garage during agents’ January 1 home search, according to the complaint.

Bickford had told family members he was considering traveling to Jordan to study under a Sheikh -- who he refused to name, but the FBI believes was al-Maqdisi -- and to attend an Islamic religious school, according to the complaint.

Bickford booked a December 12 flight to Jordan but did not go, according to the complaint.

The next day, December 13, FBI Agents in Maine, following a tip to law enforcement from family members, including his mother, interviewed Bickford. He told the FBI he intended to fight in the jungles of Burma (Myanmar), where Muslims are oppressed, according to the complaint.

Since New Year’s Eve, Bickford has been in police custody at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. After his arrest and being apprised of his Miranda right to remain silent, Bickford agreed to be interviewed by the FBI and NYPD.

Bickford told them he had decided not to go overseas but to wage his New Year’s Eve attack after arriving in New York by Amtrak train on December 29, according to the complaint.

Bickford said he targeted the first police officer, because he was a man in uniform who had a weapon, and all men of military age are his targets, according to the complaint.

Bickford also said that no one who works for the U.S. Government can be a true Muslim, because of U.S. support for Israel, and that he wanted to kill as many of these targets as he could, according to the complaint.

Bickford allegedly intended to die in the attack in an effort to achieve martyrdom but considers his attack unsuccessful, because he did not die and did not kill any officers, according to the complaint.

Bickford also said he acted alone in is not affiliated or working on behalf of any terrorist group, according to the complaint.

All three officers were treated and released from the hospital January 1.