Canadian Police Investigating Knife, Car Attack On Officer As Act Of Terror

EDMONTON, Alberta (CBSNewYork/AP) — Canadian police said early Sunday that an attack on an officer outside a football game with a car and knife and a high-speed chase of a U-Haul that left four people injured in the western city of Edmonton, Alberta, are being investigated as acts of terrorism.

Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said that officers took a suspect in custody and they think he acted alone. Knecht said an Islamic State group flag was found in the car that hit the officer. They later described him as a 30-year-old Edmonton man.

The attack began outside a Canadian Football League game at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night when police say a white Chevrolet Malibu rammed a traffic control barricade and sent an officer flying into the air 15 feet.

Knecht said the driver, believed to be 30 years old, then got out and attacked the officer with a knife before fleeing on foot.

The officer was taken to a hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries while a manhunt was launched. “It’s not critical,” Knecht said of the injuries.

A few hours later, a U-Haul van was stopped at an impaired driving check stop north of downtown on Wayne Gretzky Drive. Knecht said the name of the driver was close to the name of the registered owner of the car that hit the officer.

He said the U-Haul then sped off toward downtown with police in pursuit.

Police say the U-Haul intentionally swerved at pedestrians at crosswalks throughout the chase. Four people were injured by the van, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

The van eventually flipped near a downtown hotel and a suspect was arrested. Knecht said the man was known to police, but did not release his name.

“It is believed at this time that these two incidents are related,” Knecht said. “It was determined that these incidents are being investigated as acts of terrorism.”

Knecht said Edmonton police are working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s National Security Enforcement Team and other Canadian security agencies. Knecht told the public to remain vigilant and observant of their surroundings.

Knecht said police didn’t call off the chase of the U-Haul due to the seriousness of the crime.

Witness Pat Hannigan told reporters that he saw police pull the man from the windshield of the toppled U-Haul. He estimated 30 police cars were chasing the U-Haul.

Austin Elgie, manager of The Pint bar just west of the downtown core, also saw the van zoom by with police giving chase.

The van “peeled” into an alley where people were smoking, he said.

“There were like 10 cop cars following him. … It was crazy,” he said. “It just came around the corner, ripping. I thought at first he was pulling over for the cops coming by, but he was clearly the one they were chasing.”

Elgie said the van hit a man who was a bar customer.

“I have a registered nurse on my bar team and I grabbed her and had her look after the guy until the ambulance came,” he said. “He was breathing and we got him in the ambulance and he was still breathing.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that Canadians “stand with the people of Edmonton after the terrorist attack on Saturday that sent an Edmonton Police Service officer to hospital and injured a number of innocent people who were out to cheer on their football team and to enjoy an evening in their city.”

“We cannot — and will not — let violent extremism take root in our communities. We know that Canada’s strength comes from our diversity, and we will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us or promote fear,” Trudeau said.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter that the country “will not be intimidated by violence.”

A Public Safety Department spokesman said the national terrorism threat level for Canada remains at “medium,” where it has stood since the week a gunman stormed Parliament in Ottawa in fall 2014. The man killed a soldier at the national war memorial before being shot dead inside Parliament.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said on Twitter that her thoughts are with the injured officer and she’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the department is tracking the events in Edmonton.

There were no direct threats to New York City, according to O’Neill.

It was military appreciation night at the football game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Canada’s chief of defense staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, conducted the pregame coin flip at Commonwealth Stadium and two CF-18 fighter jets did a fly-past before kickoff. More than 800 Boy Scouts were expected at the game and many were planning to camp out on the field afterward.

In France on Sunday, a man with a knife attacked people at the main train station in the southeastern city of Marseille, killing two women before being fatally shot by soldiers, officials said.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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