FLINT (WJRT) - (06/22/17) - The FBI in Detroit gave an update Thursday on the investigation into Wednesday’s stabbing attack at Flint's Bishop International Airport.
That attack put an airport police officer in the hospital and grabbed headlines across the country.
The FBI says 49-year-old Amor Fhouthi, a Canadian citizen, tried to buy a gun in Michigan, but was unsuccessful. The knife used in the stabbing was purchased in the U.S.
"The knife was purchased in the United States somewhere along his trip from New York and the reason I give that information, I think it's a good news story that we have an individual who attempted to buy a gun in the United States and was unsuccessful nor and then similarly he was unable to cross into the United States with that knife," said Special Agent in Charge David Gelios.
Ftouhi appeared in U.S. District Court in Flint on Wednesday. He is being held in Midland County; the jail houses inmates charged by the federal government. He could be moved before his next court date, which is next Wednesday.
Ftouhi wore a spit-guard throughout the proceeding. Aside from the concern about a language barrier at the beginning, he remained compliant.
(To hear audio from Ftouhi's court appearance, play the files in the 'Related Audio' section of this story.)
Ftouhi legally entered the country on June 16th in Lake Champlain, New York. He then rented a car and drove to Michigan last Sunday, arriving at Bishop Wednesday morning. There's still little clarity as to why Flint was a target.
"As a matter of a pending investigative matter, I'm not going to get into why he chose Flint other than he did want to identify an international airport and Flint by name alone is known as an international airport,” Gelios said.
Fatouhi is married with children and lives in an apartment in Montreal, Quebec. The apartment was raided Wednesday and sources tell ABC12 News three people who live there were taken in for questioning. He lived in the area for the past 10 years, but has duel-citizenship in Canada and Tunisia, where the court officer says he told them his mother, three sisters and two brothers still live.
Ftouhi is charged with violence at an international airport and could face up to 20 years in prison. He could also face terrorism charges down the road. Gelios says Ftouhi yelled “Allah Akbar” before stabbing Lieutenant Jeff Neville. Gelios says Ftouhi said something to the effect of, “You have killed people in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and we’re all going to die.”
Canadian and U.S. authorities had no information about Ftouhi before the attack, but whether he was working with or on behalf of an organization - that's something the FBI has no indication of.
"We continue to have no information to suggest Ftouhi's attack on Lt. Neville was part of a wider plot,” Gelios said.
The FBI released a new photo of Ftouhi on Thursday, hoping to generate tips. If you know anything, submit your tip at tips.fbi.gov. So far, over 20 witnesses have been interviewed. Several search warrants have also been carried out, including one for the vehicle that Ftoui used to get to Flint.
Neville, who retired from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, was stabbed in the neck and is listed in stable condition. He was at his post at the top of the escalators at Bishop when he was attacked from behind with a 12 inch knife with an eight inch serrated blade.
Neville worked for the sheriff's office for 20 years, from 1982-2002. He is currently second in command with airport police at Bishop.
Meanwhile, Bishop is back to normal, but they have added layers of security. They've brought in Homeland Security, who were positioned inside and out of the terminal.
Airport representatives wouldn't tell us how many of their officers are on duty on an average day. Right now, they're calling the added homeland security agents temporary and weren't ready to lay out future plans for changes in safety protocol.
Governor Rick Snyder reacted to the Flint airport stabbing on Twitter. He’s asking people to please keep the attacked officer in your thoughts and prayers. He is also thanking local, state and federal law enforcement and first responders who are working hard at Bishop Airport.
Flint congressman Dan Kildee addressed the stabbing Thursday on Capitol Hill.
"I have known Jeff for decades, dating back to our service together in county government. He is a true public servant and he is deeply committed to our community that he serves. His actions to subdue this attacker, even while he was under attack, are truly heroic. He helped save others from potential harm,” he said.
Stay with ABC12 News and ABC12.com for all updates.