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FBI describes Valley terror suspect as 'homegrown violent extremist' and a 'lone wolf'

KNXV Ismail Hamed Booking Photo MCSO.jpg
Posted at 9:56 PM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 00:09:50-05

FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ — The FBI is calling a Valley terror suspect, who was born in the U.S., as a "homegrown violent extremist." Federal investigators allege that 18-year-old Ismail Hamed was working in ISIS, and planned an attack in Maricopa County to further the terrorist group's ideology.

On January 7, a Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy shot Hamed twice outside the MCSO Fountain Hills substation.

"An individual attempted to potentially attack a deputy and try and take his life, and did so with the attitude and mentality to try to further terrorism," said Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.

Before shots were fired, the sheriff said Hamed mentioned his terrorist aims to dispatchers.

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

MCSO and the FBI held a press conference at 4 p.m. Thursday on this case. You can watch that video in the player below.

When asked why only one deputy responded to Hamed's terroristic threats, Penzone clarified that the deputy involved was actually walking to his patrol vehicle to "check his computer and learn more about the call." Before he could get to his vehicle though, Hamed confronted the deputy in the parking lot and allegedly began throwing rocks before pulling out a knife.

"The deputy gave numerous commands for him to drop the knife and stop advancing," said Sheriff Penzone. "The subject continued to advance. Basically chasing him partially around his own vehicle."

The FBI said Hamed was associated with the terror group ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. FBI officials based in Arizona are not discussing Hamed's specific connections to ISIS but are calling him a "homegrown violent extremist."

MCSO says Hamed had been "radicalizing" for a while, but said he was not part of a local network.

"This was a lone wolf attack," said Sheriff Penzone.

"Most attackers do not have the sophistication to use high scale methods like explosives or even firearms. And they usually default to what is available to them. Things like knives, trucks, other very low tech versions of attack," said Bennett Clifford. an expert on ISIS in America, who works at George Washington University's Program on Extremism.

Since 2014, six people have been charged in Arizona in connection with ISIS. Hamed would be the seventh.

"Arizona tends to use state level statutes and prosecutions more so than many states," said Clifford.

Right now, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office is the only agency that is pressing charges. Hamed still could be charged federally. The FBI has already collected data off his cell phone, but they are still hoping to learn more about the teen, who they first learned about after his attack.

"If you have any information about the suspect and we haven't spoken with you, please contact us," said Michael DeLeon, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI Phoenix Field Office.

ABC15 requested Hamed's 911 calls within 12 hours of the shooting, but they are still being withheld due to the ongoing investigation. On Thursday, prosecutors also asked the judge to seal the calls and other evidence they have collected.

Hamed is due in court Friday for an evidentiary hearing. His lawyer declined to comment.