Investigators have found a diary they believe belongs to the suspect in the attack on three police officers outside Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It ends with a last will and testament.
According to multiple law enforcement sources, the last 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, according to sources familiar with the diary’s contents.
Bickford, the 19-year-old being held by New York City police as a suspect in the machete attack against the officers, was already on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. He was interviewed by agents in Maine in mid-December after he said he wanted to travel overseas to help fellow Muslims. He indicated that he was willing to die for his religion, according to multiple law enforcement sources.
Bickford’s mother and grandmother, distraught because he repeatedly expressed his desire to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban, 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 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 once again he escaped any possible scrutiny as 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.
Just after 10 p.m. he went to the Times Square checkpoint at West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue where officers would check bags for weapons or suspicious items, NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and police said.
Bickford pulled out a machete, striking one officer with the blade and another officer in the head with the handle before swinging the blade at a third officer, who then shot him in the shoulder, according to the sources and the NYPD.
The diary expressed his desire to join the Taliban and was found in a bag he discarded before carrying out the attack, according to sources.
Bickford remains in custody and under police guard at Bellevue Hospital, where he is being treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder sustained during the attack, sources said.
The three officers – injured at one of New York’s most high-profile events just a day after their department had warned of an “ISIS-Aligned” video calling for “Lone Offender Attacks” – have all been treated and released, according to the New York Police Department.
On Sunday, federal authorities from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office were discussing whether to charge Bickford federally or under state law or both in relation to the attack, the sources said.
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