The gunman who claimed allegiance to Islamic State after shooting a Philadelphia police officer was described by people who knew him as a devout, quiet Muslim who became more “combative” after trips to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
As police charged Edward Archer on Saturday with attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault of a law enforcement officer, investigators continued to examine what prompted the 30-year-old construction worker to open fire on a police car.
Two people who knew him described a pious man who began expressing interest in Islam in his teenage years and devoted his life to religion. He participated in a local Muslim football league and worked on construction jobs, they added.
They said they did not understand why, at nearly midnight on Thursday, he approached officer Jesse Hartnett, 33, and fired 11 rounds, some at point-blank range, through the car window. Three shots struck the officer in his arm.
Archer later confessed to the attack and said he pledged allegiance to Islamic State, police said. FBI Special Agent Eric Ruona said Archer had traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 and Egypt in 2012 – a trip that a family friend said changed him.
“He became more drastic. More combative,” said Jannah Abdulsalaam, who asked only to be identified by her Muslim name. “He was kind but I noticed that change.”
The attack comes at a time of heightened anxiety in the United States over the threat posed by Islamic State. A Muslim couple inspired by the militant group killed 14 people on Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, California, just weeks after gunmen linked to the Islamic State group killed 130 people in Paris.
Archer studied Arabic at a local mosque a few years ago, said members of the mosque. Kevin Washington said Archer was “OK” at the language before even signing up for classes. Washington and another acquaintance say Archer used to talk about football.
Video of the attack shows a man in a long robe similar to the traditional dishdasha, or thobe, often worn by Muslim men in parts of the Middle East, as he opened fire on the police car.
Police officers nearby arrested him.
In 2013, Archer was charged with aggravated assault. At the time of the shooting, he was awaiting sentencing on forgery charges in Delaware County, where he lived. He also pleaded guilty in 2014 to assault and carrying an unlicensed gun,
Abdulsalaam said Archer called her “Aunty”, or “Sister Jannah,” and used to check on her or occasionally buy her groceries…