New York (AFP) – A man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group shot and seriously wounded a policeman in Philadelphia, opening fire multiple times at point-blank range with a stolen police gun before he was arrested, officials said Friday.
The apparent assassination attempt comes amid heightened security in the United States following last month’s assault by a radicalized Muslim couple in California that killed 14 people, and the November terror attacks in Paris.
Policeman Jesse Hartnett, 33, was shot three times in his left arm as he sat in his patrol car late Thursday in the northeastern city. “I’m shot. I’m bleeding heavily,” he yelled in a dispatch call.
Authorities said they were astonished he survived.
Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross called the attack “absolutely chilling” and described the officer’s injuries as “very, very serious.”
Stills captured from video surveillance and released to the press show the suspect opening fire as he walks towards the patrol car, extending his arm into the vehicle and then continuing to fire as he flees on foot.
“If that doesn’t just make the hairs on your neck just rise when you see that, it’s scary,” Ross told reporters.
The officer got out of his vehicle, despite being injured, and managed to return fire, hitting the suspect, who was quickly arrested.
“He stated that he pledges his allegiance to Islamic State, follows Allah and that is the reason he was called upon to do this,” homicide police Captain James Clark told a news conference.
Police said the suspect, named as Edward Archer, 30, has a criminal record, but that it was unclear whether he acted alone or as part of a wider conspiracy.
“He doesn’t appear to be a stupid individual, just an extremely violent one,” said Ross.
Ross, said he was “absolutely amazed” that Hartnett, an officer with five years experience, had survived. “This man fired at least 11 shots from a nine millimeter at close range,” he said.
– ‘Nothing to do with Islam’ –
Police said it was unclear how the suspect obtained the firearm, which was stolen from police in October 2013.
“That is one of the things that you absolutely regret the most, that an officer’s gun is stolen and it is used against one of your own,” Ross said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney praised Harnett’s bravery but urged people to draw no link between the criminal act and Islam.
“That is abhorrent, it’s terrible and it does not represent the religion in any way, shape or form or any of its teachings,” Kenney said.
“This is a criminal with a stolen gun trying to kill one of our officers. It has nothing to do with being a Muslim.”
Thursday’s shooting is likely to raise further concerns about the threat posed by homegrown extremists within the United States, inspired to act by IS jihadists based in Iraq and Syria.
Muslim community activists have already decried what they call an unprecedented anti-Muslim backlash in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Elsewhere on Friday, two suspects with alleged ties to the IS group were due to appear in court in California and Texas.
Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, an Iraqi-born Palestinian, was arrested on Thursday and came to the United States from Syria as a refugee in 2012.
He is accused of fighting in Syria for various terror groups.
Another Iraqi-born Palestinian, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, was due to make an initial court appearance after being indicted in Texas for providing material support to the IS group.
The head of the FBI, James Comey, told lawmakers last year that upwards of 200 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join IS extremists.