Members of Philadelphia’s Muslim community are speaking out against a man who allegedly confessed to shooting a Philadelphia Police officer, “in the name of Islam.”
Edward Archer, 30, was arraigned without bail Saturday. He is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault on a law enforcement officer, recklessly endangering another person, possession of an instrument of crime, violation of the uniform firearms act and other related offenses.
Archer, of Yeadon, Pennsylvania, is accused of walking up to Officer Jesse Hartnett’s police vehicle Thursday night and opening fire, striking the 18th District officer three times in the left arm. As Archer fled the scene, Officer Hartnett managed to get out of his vehicle and open fire, striking him in the buttocks. Archer was then apprehended by responding police officers.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said Archer, who has a criminal record and allegedly used a stolen police weapon in the incident, confessed to shooting Hartnett, “in the name of Islam.”
"According to him he believes that police defend laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran," Ross said.
Investigators also said he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State Group.
"He stated that he pledges his allegiance to Islamic State, he follows Allah and that was the reason he was called upon to do this," said Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark.
FBI evidence teams searched through Archer's home in Yeadon as well as another home linked to him in Philadelphia Friday. No guns or ISIS materials turned up during the searches, according to sources with NBC News.
Archer's neighbors said they were skeptical that the man was radicalized.
"He could have said ISIS," said Donald King. "That's possible. But people need to evaluate his mental health."
Archer’s grandfather told NBC10 he wasn’t aware of his grandson having any mental issues. He also said Archer was raised in the Baptist church but converted to Islam several years ago. The grandfather claimed Archer went to Mecca for at least a year and came back, “a changed person.”
Investigators have not found any ties to terror during Archer's past travels to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
On Friday Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials stated that Archer’s apparent motive did not represent Islam, “in any way, shape or form or its teachings.”
“This is a criminal with a stolen gun who tried to kill one of our officers,'' Kenney said. “It has nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith.''
The Al-Aqsa Islamic Society also released the following statement:
Our community agrees with Mayor Kenney that the senseless shooting of Officer Jesse Hartnett cannot be justified by any religion. We are united with our fellow Philadelphians and decry this and all senseless violence and urge that we do more to prevent the proliferation of guns on our streets. Our Mosque and community join with the rest of our City in praying for the speedy recovery of Officer Hartnett.
On Saturday Kenney attended a mural painting event at the Al-Aqsa Academy on Germantown Avenue. The mural, which is called “Windows of Peace,” is meant to serve as a show of support following an incident in December in which someone threw a bloody pig’s head at the mosque.
During the event, which the Mayor said was already planned prior to Thursday’s shooting, he defended his comments after receiving some criticism from political commentators.
“That act of that terrible man in almost assassinating our police officer was an individual act of criminality,” Kenney said. “It was not an act of religion. I don’t care what he said. He could have said anything. He still would have been wrong. He’s still a criminal and he’s going to pay the price.”
Members of Al-Aqsa echoed the Mayor’s sentiments.
“It’s very frustrating for us,” said Adab Ibrahim. “Every time there’s an incident on the news, we feel the backlash. There’s been a greater need for projects like these that bring people together.”
Mayor Kenney also said he met with Officer Hartnett, who remains in critical but stable condition at Penn Presbyterian Hospital.
“He’s a terrific young man,” Kenney said. “He had a strong right hand grip when he shook my hand. He’s certainly in discomfort and will have more surgery but we’ll get him back. He’s not lost.”