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Man with Islamic ‘extremist leanings’ attacks NY police

Hatchet-wielding assailant Zale Thompson wounds two officers in Queens, is shot dead by police

Illustrative photo of New York City police officers (AP/Mary Altaffer)
Illustrative photo of New York City police officers (AP/Mary Altaffer)

A man reported to have Islamic “extremist leanings” attacked police officers in New York City with a hatchet Thursday, injuring two before being shot dead, police and a monitoring group said.

The man, identified in the US media as Zale Thompson, had posted an array of statements on YouTube and Facebook that “display a hyper-racial focus in both religious and historical contexts, and ultimately hint at his extremist leanings,” the SITE monitoring group said.

Four police officers in the city’s Queens borough were posing for a photograph at the request of a freelance photographer when the man walked up and without saying a word attacked them, a city hall statement said.

Moments before the attack, he was seen on a street corner crouching down to pull the hatchet out of backpack before he charged the officers and began swinging the hatchet with a two-handed grip, police said.

Asked if the attack could be related to terrorism, police commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t rule it out. He cited the fatal shooting of a soldier in Canada earlier this week — what officials there have called a terror attack — as reason for concern.

“This early on, we really cannot say yes or no to that question,” Bratton said.

The attack occurred at about 2 p.m. while the officers were standing together on foot patrol, police said. Without a word, the man swung at an officer who blocked the blow with his arm. Another officer was hit in the back of the head and fell to the ground.

As the man raised the hatchet again, the two uninjured officers drew their weapons and fired several rounds, police said. The bullets killed the assailant and wounded a 29-year-old female bystander in the lower back, police said.

The officer was in critical but stable condition and was expected to undergo surgery. The woman who was struck by a stray bullet was also hospitalized.

The man who took the photograph was cooperating with police and was not considered a suspect, Bratton said.

SITE, which monitors radical Muslim groups, said that in a comment Thompson had posted to a pro-Islamic State video on September 13, 2014, he described “jihad as a justifiable response to the oppression of the ‘Zionists and the Crusaders.'”

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