Montreal man suspected in stabbing of police officer at Michigan airport

A Montreal resident accused of stabbing a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich., on Wednesday is being described by acquaintances as a "good person" and a quiet family man.

Amor Ftouhi described as a 'good person' and quiet family man

A police officer stands guard outside the building on Bélair Street in Montreal's St-Michel neighbourhood where the man accused of stabbing a police officer at a Michigan airport lived with his family. (Gabriel Gervais)

A Montreal resident accused of stabbing a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich., on Wednesday is being described by acquaintances as a "good person" and a quiet family man.

U.S. authorities named Amor Ftouhi, who is approximately 50 years old, as the suspect in Wednesday's attack, which the FBI is investigating as an act of terror.

On Wednesday afternoon, police descended on the apartment on Bélair Street in Montreal's St-Michel neighbourhood that Ftouhi shared with his wife and three children.

Three people were questioned, and RCMP were expected to take over at the scene to begin a search and seizure operation.

Neighbours identified this man as Amor Ftouhi. (Facebook)
In an update Wednesday evening, Montreal police spokesperson Benoit Boisselle said the police operation was part of anti-terrorism procedures triggered when national security is believed to be at risk.

Boisselle said no threats to public security were detected, but national security investigators will remain on site.

Mohcin Asrii, who lives in the building, told CBC that Ftouhi is a quiet family man who was always kind. 

Luciano Piazza, who has owned the building for 55 years and is Ftouhi's landlord, said he was "very surprised" to hear his tenant is the suspect.

"He's a good person, very quiet. I've never had any problems with him," Piazza said, adding Ftouhi and his family moved in more than five years ago. 

"They're really good people."

Ftouhi had been working as a driver through a job placement agency.

His Facebook page says he is originally from Tunis, Tunisia. It's not clear when he moved to Montreal.

According to a Facebook post, he graduated from Collège O'Sullivan on Mountain Street in downtown Montreal in 2009.

Two Muslim women living in the neighbourhood expressed worry and anger when they were told of the allegations facing Ftouhi.

"It scares me," Ichrak Laib told Radio-Canada. "Stupid acts like that put our lives in danger." 

"That's not us," said Seloua Ghalem. "No religion calls for violence and terrorism. It's ridiculous."

Officer wounded in knife attack

FBI spokesperson David Gelios said Ftouhi crossed legally into the U.S. on June 16 at Champlain, N.Y. 

He didn't have information on why the suspect was in Flint.

Officials evacuated the airport in Flint, Mich., Wednesday, where a witness said he saw an officer bleeding from his neck and a knife nearby on the ground. (Shannon Millard/The Flint Press)
Gelios said Ftouhi arrived alone at Bishop International Airport Wednesday morning and spent some time at a restaurant prior to the attack, which took place at 9:45 a.m. ET. 

Gelios said Ftouhi stabbed the officer in the neck with a 30-centimetre knife after yelling "Allahu akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great."

"He made a statement something to the effect of, 'You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and we are all going to die,'" Gelios said.

'A lone wolf attacker'

The attacker was quickly subdued by the wounded officer, identified as Lt. Jeff Neville, and three others.

The stabbing sent Neville to hospital in critical condition. His condition has since stabilized.

In an affidavit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, FBI special agent Thomas M. Sondgeroth said Ftoui "asked the officer why he did not kill him."

Gelios said preliminary evidence indicates the suspect acted alone and there is "nothing to suggest a wider plot."

"At this time, we view him as a lone wolf attacker," he said.

Police stand guard in front of an apartment building in Montreal on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the Michigan airport knife attack. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
During questioning, Gelios said the suspect was co-operative and talked about his motive for attacking the officer. 

"Suffice it to say he has a hatred for the United States and a variety of other things," Gelios said.

Ftoui is charged with committing an act of violence at an international airport, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Gelios said Ftouhi was not known to the FBI, and that searches are continuing.

At a media scrum in Ottawa Wednesday afternoon, federal Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale condemned the "heinous and cowardly attack" and said the RCMP are co-operating with the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

With files from Sarah Leavitt, Verity Stevenson and Radio-Canada