The confessed shooter of a Philadelphia police officer who investigators say used a stolen officer's gun and carried out his "attempted assassination" in the name of Islam traveled to the Middle East and has a history of making threats with guns.
Edward Archer, 30, of Yeadon, Delaware County, opened fire on Officer Jesse Hartnett, 33, as he drove through the intersection of 60th and Spruce streets in West Philadelphia late Thursday night.
Firing about a dozen shots, Archer moved toward the cruiser as he targeted Hartnett, surveillance video shows. Hartnett was hit three times in the arm, but was able to return fire, hitting Archer, police said.
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Archer, who was treated and released for his injuries, told investigators he carried out the shooting on behalf of Islam and did not implicate anyone else, police said.
"He certainly was targeting police," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Friday. “He was trying to assassinate this officer."
Homicide Capt. James Clark echoed Ross’ sentiments, calling the shooting an "attempted assassination."
"He pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State — he follows Allah — and that is why he was called on to do this," Clark said Friday.
Following his confession, local and federal investigators probed Archer's travel history to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Archer's grandfather, Ronald Archer, told NBC10 his grandson went to Mecca for Pilgrimage in the past couple years.
Archer flew from Newark, New Jersey to Saudi Arabia in October 2011, an FBI spokesperson confirmed. He returned a month later. In February 2012, he left for Egypt from New York and stayed abroad for 10 months before coming home. Officials have not found any indication illegal activity took place during the trips.
When he stepped back on American soil in December 2012, Archer was arrested for an outstanding warrant on an aggravated assault charge, his former attorney, Doug Dolfman, said.
In that incident, Archer allegedly threatened a man with a semi-automatic handgun as he chased him down a West Philadelphia street, records show.
"He was very impulsive, he was very paranoid, he was someone who was always looking over his shoulder even when I was involved in an interview with him, he wasn't actually sure what was going on," Dolfman told NBC10 Friday. He represented Archer for three weeks after being hired by the man's mother.
The 2012 incident wasn't Archer's only run-in with the law. He was set to be sentenced on fraud charges in Delaware County on Monday, said court records. He pleaded guilty last year to a simple assault and firearm charge and was immediately paroled due to time served.
Dolfman said Archer had a propensity for weapons based on his history. Police are looking to find out how Archer got his hands on the gun used in Thursday's ambush.
The 9 mm Glock 17 handgun was taken from a Philadelphia police officer’s home in October 2013. Ross said that officer properly reported the theft and was reprimanded according to department policy.
"We don't know ... how many hands it passed through in the past few years, I have no way of knowing," said Ross. "That is one of the things that you absolutely regret the most, when an officer’s gun is stolen and it’s used against one of your own."
Dolfman believes Archer "wanted to make some mark" by targeting a police officer. But he doubts Archer, a Muslim, was radicalized to act on behalf of the Islamic State.
"I think he's trying to bolster his image and trying to do this for himself and not for Islam or for ISIS or any other radical group," he said. "This is a lone wolf trying to make a name for himself."
[PHI]Surveillance Photos Show Shooting of Officer Jesse Hartnett
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney complimented the police department on its swift investigation and said he hoped the shooter’s actions wouldn’t be taken as a larger example of Islam.
"This is a criminal with a stolen gun who tried to kill one of our officers; it has nothing to do with being a Muslim," said Kenney.
"Our community agrees with Mayor Kenney that the senseless shooting of Officer Jesse Hartnett cannot be justified by any religion," said a statement from the Al Aqsa Islamic Society mosque in North Philly. "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."
The mosque is the same one where a pig's head was left last month.
"Our Mosque and community join with the rest of our City in praying for the speedy recovery of Officer Hartnett."
Friday afternoon, federal investigators searched the suspect's Delaware County home, as well as a Philadelphia home — just blocks from the scene — where he may have also stayed, in hopes of digging up more clues. Investigators could be seen taking bags of evidence from the scene Friday afternoon.
The elder Archer said the whole thing was "a damn shame" that left him "puzzled."