THE LATEST: ‘Rookie cops’ recovering after hatchet attack
NEW YORK (CNN) — A New York City police officer remains in critical condition at a Queens hospital Friday, one day after suffering a hatchet wound to the head.
Officer Kenneth Healey and three on-duty colleagues were posing for a picture on the sidewalk Thursday afternoon when a hatchet-wielding man charged at them “unprovoked,” according Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
The suspect, identified as Zale H. Thompson, was hiding behind a bus shelter as if he was waiting to attack the officers, according to a law enforcement official, who said it almost appeared as if he were stalking them.
In the chaos, one of the officer’s bullets struck a nearby pedestrian in her lower back. Bratton said she was recovering in surgery Thursday evening.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the officers’ swift response. “Here are four rookie cops, just starting out in their career, when the absolute unexpected happened,” de Blasio said at a Thursday press conference. “They responded exactly as their training dictated and ended the situation — thank God — very, very quickly. ”
In the aftermath, some observers questioned if it was tied to recent calls by radicals to strike the military and police, especially on the heels of separate attacks on officers in Canada earlier this week.
On Wednesday, a solider was shot and killed as he stood guard at Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa by a gunman with “connections” to jihadists who shared a radical Islamist ideology. Two days before, another Canadian soldier — this one in Quebec — was run over and killed by another man whom the Royal Canadian Mounted Police called “radicalized.” Like the one Queens, both attacks were carried out in public in broad daylight.
When asked about a link, Bratton acknowledged the heightened concern but said that “there is nothing we know as of this time that would indicate that were the case.”
A senior law enforcement official told CNN on Friday that investigators do not believe that Thompson, a Muslim convert, was driven by any radical Islamic views.
New York put its officers on alert, urging them to “maintain a heightened level of awareness against random attacks,” law enforcement officials said.
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department has also “increased security levels and visibility, so the public should expect to see an enhanced presence” of officers in light of the Canada and New York attacks, spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump told CNN.