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Montreal suspect in Michigan airport stabbing had tried to buy a gun, FBI says

A 49-year-old Montreal resident, suspected of stabbing a police officer at a Michigan airport, tried and failed to buy a gun before purchasing the knife allegedly used in the attack, the FBI said Thursday. Investigators are still trying to determine why Amor Ftouhi travelled from his home in Montreal to Flint, a struggling city in the American rustbelt more than 1,000 kilometres away, where the attack occurred. Dave Gelios, the lead FBI investigator in the case, told a news conference there is still no evidence Ftouhi has ties to any organization.

“I can say that the knife was purchased in the United States, somewhere along his trip from New York,” Gelios said.

“The reason I give that information I think it’s a good news story that we have an individual who attempted to buy a gun in the United States and was unsuccessful.”

Truck driver, father of 3

Ftouhi is a dual Canadian-Tunisian citizen, who lives in an apartment in Montreal’s St-Michel neighbourhood. Neighbours described him as a “good person” who tended to keep to himself. He held jobs at a grocery store and trained to become a security guard before working as a truck driver in recent years, according to a copy of his resum obtained by CBC News. He has no prior criminal record and, according to his CV, had obtained a FAST pass, a special permit used by truckers to speed up crossing the U.S.-Canada border.

The FBI maintains Ftouhi crossed into the United States at Champlain, N.Y., on June 16, and appears to have arrived in Michigan two days later. His car was found in the parking lot of Bishop International Airport.

Montreal Suspect In Michigan Airport Stabbing Had Tried To Buy A Gun, FBI Says

The FBI believes Ftouhi crossed into the U.S. several days before the attack in Flint, Mich. (Facebook)

Ftouhi was taken into custody almost immediately after the Wednesday morning attack. He was charged with committing violence at an airport. The suspect appeared in federal court in Flint on Thursday to hear the charge and will get a court-appointed attorney. A bond hearing was scheduled for next Wednesday. He could face additional charges. Ftouhi told court officials that he has lived in Canada for a decade and has three children.

“He said he was working off and on as a truck driver. Last worked about two weeks ago,” Linsey Carson, a court pretrial services officer, told a judge. “He indicated no mental or physical health problems and no drug or alcohol use.”

The officer who was stabbed at the airport, Lt. Jeff Neville, is recovering in a local hospital. Officials said Thursday he is “doing well.”

‘Atypical’ profile

Ftouhi’s Facebook page, which hasn’t been updated since 2016, shed little light on his views.

The only posts in the past few years were two YouTube videos in Arabic one about methods of memorizing the Qur’an and another about how to stop somebody from swallowing their tongue.

Montreal Suspect In Michigan Airport Stabbing Had Tried To Buy A Gun, FBI Says

Police check the identification of a man in front of an apartment building in Montreal where Amor Ftouhi lives. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

“The profile is a bit atypical,” said David Morin, a professor at Sherbrooke University and co-director of the Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism, adding that Ftouhi had apparently passed “completely under the radar” of law enforcement.

“The fact that he was awarded this [FAST pass] card, if indeed it is proven, would tend to show that no, in terms of risk assessment, the gentleman presented no particular danger.”

Legal clinic challenges Ontario panhandling law as unconstitutional

TORONTO A Toronto legal clinic has launched a constitutional challenge against an Ontario law that targets panhandling. The Fair Change clinic argues that the Safe Streets Act violates the rights of people who beg for money, including freedom of expression, the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The clinic says the law enacted in 2000 to address aggressive panhandling and squeegeeing criminalizes poverty. It says people ticketed under the act are unable to pay the fines.

Gerry Williams, a former Fair Change client, says he faced nearly $10,000 in tickets for panhandling, which the clinic helped him appeal. Williams, who says he had a traumatic upbringing on a fly-in First Nation, says the fines he could never have paid added an extra burden to his homelessness, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder. A previous constitutional challenge failed after the courts agreed the law infringed on individual charter rights, but said the infringement was justified in the interests of public safety.

A spokesman for Ontario s attorney general did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Quebec man, 49, charged in stabbing of airport officer in Flint, Mich.

The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017 4:36PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 21, 2017 10:07PM EDT

FLINT, Mich. – A Quebec man entered an airport in Michigan on Wednesday morning, yelled ‘Allahu akbar’ and stabbed a security officer in the neck, according to U.S. federal prosecutors who said they are investigating the incident as an act of terrorism. Amor Ftouhi, 49, was arrested shortly after the incident and was charged with committing violence at an airport, FBI special agent in charge David Gelios told a news conference. Gelios said the incident happened at 9:45 a.m. at the Bishop International Airport in Flint, about 80 kilometres northwest of Detroit.

Ftouhi entered the United States legally in Lake Champlain, N.Y., on June 16 and made his way to Flint on Wednesday morning, he said.

We do know Mr. Ftouhi entered the airport, he spent a little time on the first level, then he went upstairs he spent some time in the restaurant up there, Gelios said.

Then he came out, he was carrying baggage. He went into a restroom. He spent a little time in the restroom. Dropped both bags and came out, pulled out a knife, yelled ‘Allahu akbar,’ and stabbed Lt. Neville in the neck. Lt. Jeff Neville with the Bishop International Airport police underwent surgery and his condition has been upgraded from critical to stable, said Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw. Authorities said they have no indication at this time that Ftouhi was involved in a wider plot, but the investigation is in its early stages.

The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Neville with a large knife and declared Allahu akbar, the Arabic phrase for God is great. The FBI, which is leading the investigation, said Ftouhi said something similar to you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.

As we progress and take this matter to grand jury for indictment, other charges could be pending later on, Gelios said. It’s an ongoing investigation, there are joint operations going on in Canada as we speak. We want to thank our Canadian partners who are helping us further investigate this attack. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the incident a heinous and cowardly attack.

There is complete co-operation between the RCMP and other Canadian authorities and agencies with all of their counterparts in the United States and we will do everything we possibly can to assist in this matter, Goodale told reporters in Ottawa. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that he is proud of the swift response by authorities from both nations.

He said the attack is being investigated as an act of terrorism and added it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Canadian TV footage showed police escorting at least one person away from a four-storey Montreal apartment building where the suspect is believed to have lived. There was a significant police presence outside the building. City police spokesman Benoit Boiselle said officers with the department were assisting the RCMP in a search of the apartment.

He said the FBI requested the search after the attack. Meanwhile, witnesses in Flint described seeing the suspect led away in handcuffs by police, Neville bleeding and a knife on the ground.

The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck, Ken Brown told local media. Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told a local TV station she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing blank, just totally blank.

Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boiselle said officers with the department are assisting the RCMP in a search of an apartment in the city. Boiselle said the FBI requested the search after the attack. A number of police stood guard outside of the apartment building in the east end of Montreal. It’s located on Belair St. in St-Michel borough.

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