The suspect was immediately taken into custody, and federal prosecutors announced hours later that the Canadian man was charged with committing violence at an airport. A news release from the U.S. attorney identified him as Amor Ftouhi, 49, of Quebec.
The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife and declared "Allahu akbar," the Arabic phrase for "God is great." According to the FBI, which is leading the investigation, Ftouhi said something similar to "you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die."
The FBI in the criminal complaint added that Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why he didn't kill him.
Neville was in satisfactory condition after initially being in critical condition, airport police Chief Chris Miller said at a late afternoon news conference where the charges were announced.
The attack just before 10 a.m. at Bishop International Airport prompted an evacuation and extra security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was briefed on the stabbing.
Authorities are investigating the attack as an act of terrorism, but have no indication at this time that the suspect was involved in a "wider plot," said Special Agent in Charge David Gelios.
"At this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker," Gelios said. "We have no information to suggest any training."
He said Ftouhi legally entered the U.S. through Lake Champlain, New York, on June 16 and made his way to the Flint airport on Wednesday morning.
Ftouhi spent some time in a public, unsecured area of the airport before going to a restroom where he dropped two bags, emerged and yelled "Allahu akbar" prior to attacking the officer with a 12-inch knife that had an 8-inch serrated blade, Gelios said.
Ftouhi remained in public areas, so he never went through any security screening, Gelios said. He described Ftouhi as "cooperative" and talking to investigators.
Witnesses described seeing the suspect led away in handcuffs by police, Neville bleeding and a knife on the ground.
"The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck," Ken Brown told The Flint Journal. "I said they need to get him a towel."
Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing "blank, just totally blank."
Miller, the airport chief, said Neville "fought him to the end," managing to stop the stabbing and bring Ftouhi to the ground as Miller and other officers arrived to help.
Genesee County Commissioner Mark Young, a friend of Neville's who retired from the Genesee County sheriff's office in 1997, said Neville left that department two years after him. He said Neville served in various capacities with the sheriff's office including in the jail, on road patrol and as a court officer. Neville retired from that department as a lieutenant.
Young said he headed to the airport when he learned about the stabbing Wednesday. He said once he got there, he "tried to assess and work with emergency management and emergency response teams from the sheriff's department, kind of trying to see what was going on."
"Things were chaotic, but very well organized and under control - how the sheriff's department was handling things and how Bishop International was handling things," he said.
A few miles away, officials stationed police officers at Flint City Hall after the incident. Mayor Karen Weaver said in a release the situation was "under control" but that officials sought to take "extra precautions."
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The Associated Press contributed to this story.