New York police officer critically wounded in hatchet attack while posing for photo

A body lays covered on Jamaica Avenue near 162nd street in the borough of Queens in New York on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A body lays covered on Jamaica Avenue near 162nd street in the borough of Queens in New York on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Surveillance video from the incident released by police shows the hatchet-wielding suspect running past a person on the pavement and taking a swing. -- PHOTO: NYPD 
Surveillance video from the incident released by police shows the hatchet-wielding suspect running past a person on the pavement and taking a swing. -- PHOTO: NYPD 

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A hatchet-wielding attacker charged a group of New York City police officers posing for a photograph on Thursday, wounded two, one critically, before the assailant was shot dead, police said.

The officers were on foot patrol when they were asked by a freelance photographer to pose for a picture on a Queens street at about 2pm local time, a New York Police Department spokesman said. Suddenly a man carrying a hatchet charged the officers, swinging it and striking one officer in the right arm and then swinging it again and striking a second officer in the head, the spokesman said.

The remaining two officers fired their weapons at the man, hitting him. The CNN reported that the attacker is Zale H. Thompson, citing a law enforcement official who also said that the suspect had a criminal record in California and had been discharged from the Navy for misconduct. He was said to be approximately 32 years old and was pronounced dead at the scene.

A 29-year-old female bystander was struck by a stray bullet. She underwent surgery and was recovering at the hospital, the spokesman said.

Both officers were being treated at Jamaica Hospital, with the 25-year-old officer who was hit in the head in a critical but stable condtion after undergoing surgery, police said. The other officer, who is 24 years old, was in stable condition, the spokesman said.

“At this point, no known motive for this attack has been established,” Police Commissioner William Bratton told a press conference.

Thompson, had posted an array of statements on YouTube and Facebook that “display a hyper-racial focus in both religious and historical contexts, and ultimately hint at his extremist leanings,” the SITE monitoring group said.

SITE, which monitors radical Muslim groups, said that in a comment Thompson had posted to a pro-Islamic State video on Sept 13, he described “jihad as a justifiable response to the oppression of the ‘Zionists and the Crusaders.’”

Police declined to comment on media reports that the attack was tied to terrorism and that an internal memo urged officers to maintain a heightened level of awareness in the wake of recent attacks in Canada.

All four officers involved in the New York City incident graduated on July 8 from the city Police Academy.