FLINT, Mich. (Reuters) - A Tunisian man was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for stabbing a police officer at the airport in Flint, Michigan, a decision a federal judge said was made easier by the defendant’s defiant and angry remarks in court.
“Do I regret what I did? Never,” Amor Ftouhi, 51, told U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman. “If I had to do it one more time, I would do it. I regret I didn’t kill that cop.”
Leitman noted that Ftouhi stated he wished he was free so that he could continue to harm and kill people.
“I have never imposed a sentence even close to this before,” the judge said. “I wrung my hands about whether that (life) is an appropriate sentence, but after this morning, I have no doubt whatsoever.”
In June 2017, Ftouhi shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)” before stabbing Lieutenant Jeff Neville, who was working security at Bishop Flint Airport. Other officers wrestled Ftouhi to the ground and prevented him from grabbing Neville’s gun.
An FBI investigation found that Ftouhi, who lived in Montreal, Canada, had legally entered the United States five days earlier and tried on multiple occasions to buy a firearm at a gun show.
Ftouhi said on Thursday he had hoped to obtain a machine gun. Failing that, he used a knife to attack Neville, who survived and testified in court on Thursday.
Ftouhi, who holds dual Tunisian-Canadian citizenship, was convicted during a five-day trial in November.
In an unusual move, Leitman interrupted Ftouhi’s statement to the court on Thursday to tell him his testimony was damaging his case. Ftouhi was undeterred and continued to rail against the United States, his defense counsel and American Muslims who do not “care about your brothers around the world.”
“In my heart, in my blood, in my head, I felt I had to do jihad against the enemies of Allah,” Ftouhi said.
Ftouhi’s attorney Joan Morgan said the assailant had been depressed and mentally unstable.
Neville, 57, retired from his job of 37 years following the attack. He told reporters after the hearing that Ftouhi had lived a normal life up until about two years ago.
“I can’t wrap my head around it ... He came to this country, to Flint, Michigan, to attack me?” Neville said. “I would have been disappointed, frankly, if he didn’t get life because he’s a really dangerous man. If he got out of prison at 70 years old, he’d still be a dangerous man.”
Reporting by Steve Friess; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bernadette Baum