NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A man swung a large ax at a District of Columbia police officer in an unprovoked attack early Friday, a week after New York City police officers were attacked by a man with a hatchet.
The officer was sitting in a marked police car about 3 a.m. Friday in northeast Washington when the man swung the ax and shattered the driver’s side window, said Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who described the attack as an ambush.READ MORE: New York Weather: CBS2’s 12/1 Wednesday Morning Forecast
The officer got out of the car and struggled with the attacker, who fled on foot and left the ax behind. The officer suffered a minor injury. Click here for more from our sister station, CBS DC.
Lanier stressed that police had no evidence linking the attack to any broader plot or to last week’s attack of a group of New York City police officers by a hatchet-wielding man, which New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called an act of terrorism.
Lanier said police weren’t ruling out that possibility.
“A lot of these radical organizations, terrorist organizations are very vocal about targeting first responders. It’s no secret. It’s not new. But it certainly has ramped up,” Lanier said. “We’re on extremely high alert.”
“At this point I don’t see a connection, but whenever you have a crime that is similar, obviously we’re going to cover all our bases and examine this thoroughly,” said Officer Araz Alali, a police spokesman.
Police don’t have a good description of the man, and Lanier said investigators were pursuing 30 to 40 leads, including some generated by tips from the public. The FBI offered help with the investigation if needed.
Last Thursday, NYPD Officer Kenneth Healey was with other officers on Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica on foot patrol when without a word, Zale Thompson, 32, came at the officers with a hatchet, police said.
Healey suffered a serious head injury and spent six days in the hospital. Another officer was slashed in the arm. Thompson was shot and killed by other officers.
A bloody hatchet, about 18 inches in length, was recovered from the scene.
Initially, investigators said the attack was not linked to terrorism. But Bratton later said he was comfortable calling the incident a terrorist attack.READ MORE: NYCFC Reaches Eastern Conference Final After Penalty Shootout
Thompson’s activity on social media indicated he was a convert to Islam and included rants about injustices in American society and oppression abroad but offered no clear evidence of any affiliation with terror groups, police said.
“As we continue to go through the forensic examination of his media, social media platforms, computers and other devices we do see a large amount of queries and searches into things that are clearly influenced by the message of groups like al Qaeda and ISIS to attack domestically,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller said Friday.
The NYPD is in talks with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to determine if there are any similarities between the two attacks, Miller said.
“At this time, because they have a limited description of their suspect and no one in custody it’s very hard to gauge what the motivation was or what the purpose was,” Miller said. “Their investigation continues, we will continue to coordinate with them.”
Lanier said she spoke with Miller to go over any investigative details that might be helpful.
As CBS2’s Diane Macedo reported, PBA President Pat Lynch said that more needs to be done.
“The local police officer, the police officer in your neighborhood is not trained or equipped for that kind of threat. We need to do it, and we need to do it now,” he said.
Bratton said both attacks were unprovoked and unanticipated.
The commissioner said NYPD officers are being reminded to walk in pairs and be constantly alert in wake of the attacks.
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