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Man who ambushed Philadelphia officer may be terrorist sympathizer, police say

By Doug G. Ware   |   Updated Jan. 8, 2016 at 4:34 PM

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Philadelphia police are investigating an ambush shooting Thursday night that sent an on-duty officer to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds -- and the suspect could be either a terrorist sympathizer or a man with mental illness.

Officer Jesse Hartnett was wounded while on patrol in his cruiser late Thursday when a gunman abruptly came out firing. One official said the gunman fired 13 slugs from a 9mm semiautomatic handgun that had been reported stolen from a police officer two years ago.

Harnett, 33, who was hit three times in the left arm, managed to get out of his vehicle and chase the shooter for a short distance -- and return fire, hitting him three times, police said. He was later captured, treated at the hospital and taken to police headquarters, officials said.

The suspect was identified as Edward Archer.

While Hartnett's injuries are not life-threatening, police said at a news conference Friday that he does face a long recovery due to nerve damage that was inflicted by the gunshot wounds.

Philadelphia police are being assisted in the investigation by the FBI. Authorities are trying to determine if the ambush was a terrorist attack or an act by a mentally disturbed man.

According to Philadelphia police Capt. James Clark, Archer told detectives, "I follow Allah. I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic state. That is why I did what I did."

Archer's mother, however, reportedly told police that her son has mental health problems. Investigators said during Friday's news conference that they still need more information before they're able to make a determination on a motive.

"We will see where the investigation leads us," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who was in only his fourth day on the job Friday. He added that Archer had said he opposed laws enforced by police because they supposedly run counter to the Islamic faith.

"This guy tried to execute the police officer," Ross said.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, however, who is also in his first week on the job, said Friday he believes the motive had "nothing to do" with Islam, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Whether Archer, 30, was radicalized in any way or had any connection to an established terror group was not immediately clear, authorities said.

"We need more information," Jacob Bender, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said. "Was he in contact with any bona fide terrorist or anything like that? We don't know."

Investigators are reviewing video footage taken of the incident from one of the city's surveillance cameras.

Incidentally, Thursday night's shooting occurred a couple hours after a live town hall event with President Barack Obama discussing the problem of gun violence in the United States. Obama issued new executive orders this week intended to curb violence by keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them, like convicted criminals and those with mental illness.

"There are too many guns on our streets," Kenney said.

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