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Philadelphia Police Investigate Extremist Connections In Officer Ambush

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Philadelphia, the police commissioner says it's a miracle that an officer survived an attack last night. The officer was shot in his squad car last night. And the suspect, Edward Archer, was taken into custody immediately after the incident. This is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack. Reporter Bobby Allyn of member station WHYY joins us with more. And, Bobby, what did police say about how this unfolded?

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: So surveillance footage depicts the officer, Jesse Hartnett, driving in west Philadelphia in his squad car around 11:40 last night when a suspect started shooting. The shooter's been identified as Edward Archer. And he was wearing a white, kind of sheer robe and fired 13 times as he approached the driver side of the car. After the officer returned fire, the suspect fled and then was taken into custody shortly after. The officer was hit three times and sustained a broken arm and nerve damage in the barrage of fire but is now in stable condition.

CORNISH: Why is this being investigated as a possible terrorist attack?

ALLYN: Well, right now, it's important to emphasize that the case is riddled with unknowns. Under questioning, Archer told investigators that he attacked in the name of Islam, but that connection shouldn't be overblown at this point in the investigation. Local reports are saying that his name was not immediately known to local imams. So the extent of even his religion is kind of sketchy right now. And it really speaks to a point underscored by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney that the shooting shouldn't be seen as representative of Muslims or the faith of Islam. And again, no direct link to a terrorist organization has been established so far.

CORNISH: Is there any more known about Archer at this point?

ALLYN: The - kind of a rough sketch is slowly emerging of him. He has a criminal history, has been convicted of charges, including assault, and actually had a court date, a sentencing hearing, scheduled for this coming Monday on another incident. His mother has said that he's been hearing voices in his head and acting peculiar lately, but why and what's been going on in his life lately is still largely unknown.

CORNISH: That's the suspect's mom speaking to a newspaper.

ALLYN: Yeah, exactly.

CORNISH: Where does the investigation go from here?

ALLYN: Well, state and federal authorities are still kind of in the evidence-gathering stage right now, so much more could emerge in the coming weeks. But charges are very likely forthcoming, though prosecutors won't yet elaborate on what exactly Archer might be facing.

CORNISH: That's WHYY's Bobby Allyn. Bobby, thank you.

ALLYN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.