So far, the FBI has found no indication that the man held in the attempted assassination of a Philadelphia police officer has connections to any overseas terrorist organization.
FBI Director James Comey addressed reporters Thursday after debriefing local law enforcement leaders about the federal investigation into Edward Archer, who police say attempted to kill Officer Jesse Hartnett while he was on patrol last week in West Philadelphia.
On Saturday, prosecutors charged Archer with attempted murder and related offenses.
Philadelphia is not a hotbed for radicalization, Comey said, but extremists, including the Islamic State group, have been encouraging troubled people to commit acts of violence toward police and military personnel through social media campaigns.
“This is obviously the nature of the current terrorism threat,” Comey said. “This is about a group of savages in Syria and Iraq trying to motivate folks to kill people.”
Federal authorities have executed search warrants at two properties associated with Archer as they try to pinpoint what may have motivated an attack Archer told police he carried out in the name of Islam.
Comey said federal investigators need to thwart those who become radicalized from committing violent acts, saying that “if you see something, say something” needs to become more than just a slogan.
“We need help spotting these people before they ruin their own lives and ruin the lives of a lot of innocent people by engaging in acts of violence,” Comey said.
Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senators of opposing parties don’t agree on much, but both visited Philadelphia Thursday and found some common ground on combating homegrown terrorist attacks.
Sen. Bob Casey said the country is seeing “the rise of a lone wolf problem,” citing the recent violence in San Bernardino and Philadelphia.
The Democrat says federal officials need to assume that similar attacks will happen, saying that better communication between local and federal authorities is paramount.
At a separate event, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said the danger of radical Islamist terrorism is not confined to regions torn apart by war.
“Or attacks against civilians in Paris, and Beirut and Jakarta, but attacks against Americans in Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and now, Philadelphia,” Toomey said.
Mayor Jim Kenney emphasized that the probe into the Philadelphia shooting is not finished.
“I think speculation is what’s make this thing run wild in people’s minds, scaring people, putting people at risk.”