Prosecutors: Sister of alleged terrorist sought revenge, tried to stab Temple Terrace officer
TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. - Piece by piece, investigators taped together torn-up remnants of a note they say pointed to one clear motive: Revenge.
“It helped fill in one of the missing pieces of this strange incident,” Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said.
It’s been nearly two months since 21-year-old Hiba Momtaz Al-Azhari pulled a knife and lunged at a Temple Terrace officer. The two officers who shot and killed Al-Azhari have now been cleared by Warren’s office.
“Our independent review determined that the officers' use of deadly force was justified based on the fact that she not only planned to carry out what she described as a 'jihad,’ but that she actually attempted to carry it out,” Warren said.
On May 29, Al-Azhari showed up outside the police department and asked to file a police report about something that had happened a few days before. Surveillance footage form that day shows an officer coming out to speak with Al-Azhari' she then reaches inside her purse and pulls out a large chef’s knife.
“You can see this went from a calm conversation to a life-threatening attack in just a matter of moments,” Warren said. “That first responding officer described how he could actually feel the knife sliding across his vest.”
That officer told Al-Azhari several times to drop the weapon. He and another officer fired four gunshots; Al-Azhari later died at a hospital.
During their investigation at her home, they found the note discarded in a trash can.
“FDLE finding that letter where she is saying ‘jihad’ connects the last piece of the puzzle here. This woman was upset that her brother had been arrested, just days before,” Warren said.
That brother -- 23-year-old Muhammad Al-Azhari -- an American who had been kicked out of Saudi Arabia on terrorism charges, planned to carry out an attack in Tampa on behalf of ISIS, according to the FBI.
His sister, Warren says, was distraught over the arrest.
“The apparent motive behind the attack was revenge,” he concluded.
An attack that Warren says, thankfully, was never successful.