The suspect in the stabbing of a police officer at the Flint airport in Michigan on Wednesday had reportedly attempted to purchase a gun before the attack, but had failed a background check from the U.S.’ National Instant Criminal Background Check System due to not being an American citizen, according to CNN.
Amor Ftouhi, 49, reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” before stabbing Lt. Jeff Neville in the neck at Flint’s Bishop International Airport. The FBI are currently investigating the incident as a terrorist attack.
FBI Special Agent David Gelios told CNN that Ftouhi crossed the border legally into Lake Champlain, New York, last Friday by car. As early as Sunday, Ftouhi had arrived in Michigan where he is confirmed by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul to have attempted to purchase a gun once in the Flint area.
Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to “an alien who is unlawfully in the United States or who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa.” Ftouhi, having legally entered the U.S., but not as an immigrant, was denied the legal purchase of a firearm.
The exact location Ftouhi attempted to purchase the gun was is currently unclear. While unable to obtain a firearm due to the U.S. federal background check system, Ftouhi did purchase the 12-inch knife here in America that he would later use to carry out the attack on Neville, who underwent surgery Wednesday, and is recovering in a local hospital.
Authorities say Ftouhi’s attack was unexpected, as he was not on a watch list in either Canada or the U.S..
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly described Ftouhi as a “completely off-the-screen individual.” McCaul echoed Kelly when he told CNN “I don’t think he was on anyone’s radar screen.”
His neighbors also seemed surprised by the attack. According to CNN, Ftouhi lived in the Saint-Michel district of Montreal, known for its North African Muslim community. Ftouhi reportedly lived with his wife and three children, where his neighbor “Hakeem” said Ftouhi was quiet and “a kind person.”
“I said ‘hello’ going up and down the stairs,” Hakeem told CNN. “We were neighborly.”
The FBI said it believes the attack was motivated from an intense hatred for the U.S., and a “variety of other things,” according to Gelios. Though the attack is believed to be religiously motivated due to Ftouhi’s reported screaming of “Allah” during the stabbing, the FBI is deeming this a “lone wolf attack.”
“Time will tell over the next several days whether anyone had any knowledge of this, but at this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker,” Gelios told CNN. “We have no information to suggest a wider plot.”