The man who went after four police officers with a small hatchet yesterday afternoon in Queens has been identified as Zale Thompson, a 32-year-old who once served in the Navy and later converted to Islam, the Associated Press reports. “I’m very confident this was a terrorist attack,” said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton at a press conference today, although he noted that Thompson did not appear to have connections to international terrorism.
Thompson was shot dead on Jamaica Avenue on Thursday after striking a 25-year-old NYPD rookie in the head with his ax and slicing another on the arm. Both cops are expected to live, as is a bystander hit in the back by a stray bullet in the chaos. The terrifying moment before Thompson’s attack was caught on a security camera:
Bratton said Thompson was “intent on killing them,” based in part on the writings he left behind online. “Which is better, to sit around and do nothing, or to Jihad!” Thompson reportedly wrote in YouTube comments.
“America’s military is strong abroad, but they have never faced an internal mass revolt,” he said on Facebook. “They are weaker at home. We are scattered and decentralized, we can use this as an advantage. They are centralized and strong, which can be exploited as a weakness.”
After two similar attacks by isolated, self-radicalized ISIS supporters in Canada earlier this week, Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote about the phenomenon in an Intelligencer column, “Small-Scale Attacks by Self-Radicalized Terrorists Are the New Normal”:
The sobering thought that comes out of the Ottawa shooting isn’t that we ought to be scared, or that we need more stringent counter-terror policies, or a more martial stand toward the Middle East. It is simply that both this kind of episode — a self-radicalizing purported Islamist who launches a small-scale but murderous and scary act of terror — and the exaggerated, sometimes discriminatory seeming steps our government takes to prevent it may be, for the foreseeable future, part of our human routine.