Authorities say Fountain Hills terror suspect is a homegrown extremist

Jan 17, 2019, 5:19 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2019, 8:55 am
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX – Law enforcement officials said Thursday they believe the knife-wielding man shot by a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy in Fountain Hills last week is a homegrown violent extremist who wanted to kill the deputy.

Sheriff Paul Penzone said investigators have determined that 18-year-old Ismail Hamed, who was born in the U.S., had been in the “process of what we would describe as radicalizing.”

“Additionally, evidence indicates, and his statements, that his intent that day was to further the actions of his ideology. And it is our belief it was his intent to harm that deputy in an effort to promote terror,” Penzone said.

“And when I say harm, it’s very likely that he would have tried to have taken the life of our deputy, who had no choice but to fire on him to stop him.”

Penzone would not go into specifics about what Hamed said over the course of the Jan. 7 incident, which he termed a “lone wolf attack.”

The suspect is hospitalized in stable condition and has been charged with two counts of terrorism under Arizona law, two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He still could face federal terrorism charges if it’s determined they are warranted, said Micheal DeLeon, a special agent with the Phoenix FBI office.

Charges filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday said Hamed provided “advice, assistance, direction or management” to ISIS and engaged in an act of terrorism.

Thursday’s press conference was the first time officials discussed the terrorism charges.

There were no other known existing threats related to Hamed, DeLeon said, and the suspect wasn’t known to the FBI before this incident.

DeLeon said homegrown violent extremists like they believe Hamed to be are the primary terrorist threats to the homeland today.

He said law enforcement agencies need help from the community — including families, schools and religious institutions — in combating these threats.

“You need to notify officials when you notice a disturbing change in a family member, a friend, a colleague or a member of the community,” he said. “What I mean by that is when somebody is espousing or leaning toward violent activities.”

Anybody with information about Hamed’s case or any others was asked to notify authorities at, the Phoenix FBI field office at 623-466-1999 or the Arizona Counterterrorism Information Center at 877-272-8329.

MCSO/FBI Investigation

Posted by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hamed first contacted the MCSO over the phone, saying he wanted to meet in person with a deputy at the Fountain Hills substation near Palisades and Saguaro boulevards.

“He made some statements during that call to indicate that he had an affiliation with a terror ideology,” Penzone said.

Penzone said a deputy who was at the substation, which doesn’t have any fencing, went to his vehicle to review the call.

Hamed approached the deputy, who tried to open a dialogue, and soon after started throwing rocks at him.

He then pulled out a knife and “aggressively” advanced, prompting the deputy to pull his firearm while retreating, Penzone said.

Hamed ignored commands to drop the knife and stop advancing, and the deputy shot him twice when he was about 2-3 feet away, Penzone said.

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Authorities say Fountain Hills terror suspect is a homegrown extremist