The man accused of stabbing a New York City police officer in early June was an illegal immigrant from Bosnia-Herzegovina who was motivated by support for violent Islamic extremism, the Justice Department revealed Wednesday in bringing charges against the man.
During the height of the racial justice protests and as the coronavirus pandemic was raging, Dzenan Camovic targeted police officers who were on anti-looting patrol, prosecutors said.
Investigators said they caught him on security footage stalking the officers, then stabbing one in the neck with a kitchen knife and trying to stab another, chasing him away. Mr. Camovic then went back to the first officer, grabbed his gun and shot six times at responding officers, hitting two of them in the hand, all while shouting “Allahu akbar,” an Arabic prayer roughly translated as “God is great.”
Officers fired 16 rounds in return, wounding Mr. Camovic, and then took him into custody.
He was also found to have been studying Islamic extremist materials, including from Islamic State, prosecutors said.
The connection of an illegal immigrant with an apparent Islamist attack is particularly striking, though authorities didn’t reveal any more about his path to the U.S. beyond his unauthorized status.
“Dzenan Camovic, an illegal alien and Bosnian national, is alleged to have used the cover of chaos during recent civil unrest in New York City to launch a premeditated and cowardly attack from behind against two New York City Police officers, brutally slashing one with a knife, stealing his weapon and opening fire, and injuring several responding officers,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in announcing the federal charges.
He said investigators believe more evidence exists of Mr. Camovic’s ties to Islamic extremism but it’s hidden behind encryption that the government cannot break.
Mr. Barr has been pushing for tech companies to create backdoor access so authorities can peek into encrypted materials.
Mr. Camovic, 21, faces attempted murder and weapons charges at the state level, and a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of robbery, use of a firearm, theft of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm. Illegal immigrants cannot legally have guns.
The officers and Mr. Camovic all recovered.”We are lucky that these officers were not killed,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said.
Just after the June 3 stabbing, a relative of Mr. Camovic insisted he wasn’t a terrorist.
“‘I’ve known him since he was 6 inches tall. That this is a terrorism, it’s illogical,” the relative told The New York Post. “He was raised here, [English] is his only language … He was as good of a child as a child could be.”