As January came to an end in South Philadelphia, the city was already prepared to push for its Super Bowl team to take the fight to the Patriots in Minnesota. As the days were filled with reports about the big game, it is easy to understand how many might have missed the story of Khalil Lawal, who law enforcement are investigating for a suspected terrorist attack.
Lawal, who lived in Arlington, Virginia, was killed in Philadelphia after trying to hit pedestrians with his car. Eventually, he managed to hit one but was slain by an off-duty officer before he could flee the scene.
Lost in the midst of all the pre-Super Bowl hype in the city of Philadelphia, however, is the fact that the FBI is now interested in the case, suggesting that it might be a terrorist attack.
Witnesses to Khalil Lawal’s attack produced accounts of his actions that certainly sounded like terrorism. Those who saw Lawal said that he was driving in a way that seemed like he purposely targeted pedestrians to run over.
Eventually, Khalil Lawal hit a pedestrian, though he thankfully failed to kill the pedestrian. Before he could drive away from the scene, a good Samaritan stopped his car, boxing it in.
Khalil Lawal got out of his car and chased the Samaritan around the scene of the crime. Thankfully, an off-duty police officer got out of his car and identified himself as an officer.
Khalil Lawal then assaulted the officer, who fired at Khalil, killing him.
There were many things in the initial report to suggest terrorism to anyone paying attention to what Lawal did.
Terrorists around the world (including here in the United States) have been turning to cars, trucks, and vans to mow down people and incite panic.
It’s a sensible move for terrorists, and rented or purchased vehicles are easy to get hold of for anyone willing to spend money. Indeed, a terrorist could spend less than $2,000 and buy a car that will work long enough to cause mayhem and panic.
Further, Khalil Lawal’s name is a heavily Islamic name. Khalil (sometimes written as Khaleel) is a name meaning ‘friend’ that is common throughout the Muslim world.
Lawal is a common Nigerian surname, coming from a land where nearly 48% of the citizens are Muslim.
However, there’s another connection. This connection involves Edward Archer, a man who committed his own terrorist attack when opened fire on Philadelphia police.
Edward Archer, who shot a police officer and had previously declared his alliance to the Islamic State, was being tried the same week that Khalil Lawal decided to go on his rampage.
Archer was found guilty of attempted murder and aggravated assault and will be sentenced later in this year.
However, some of the most poignant information suggesting that Khalil Lawal’s drive was an attempted terrorist attack comes from his own social media.
Khalil Lawal’s Facebook page was a mass of conspiracy theories, Quranic verses, pictures of firearms, money, cars, and complaints about continued military strikes against Muslims overseas.
His Facebook page suggested that his job was ‘Music Producer and Engineer,’ though it is not known at this time what kind of music an alleged jihadi would produce.
The FBI is currently seeking investigation concerning the driver, his car, and his life.
ICYMI: the FBI is seeking information on the 1/29 #Philly pedestrian hit-and-run matter. Anyone w/info on Monday's events or driver Khalil Lawal, please call 1-800-CALL-FBI. Mr. Lawal, a Virginia resident who'd recently been staying in Maryland, drove make/model in pic w/MD tags. pic.twitter.com/PiYwNL8VY0
— FBI Philadelphia (@FBIPhiladelphia) February 2, 2018
According to the tweet provided by the FBI, Khalil Lawal, who was a resident of Virginia, had recently been staying in Maryland.
The FBI does not usually get involved in hit-and-run investigations, which is what the local police originally suggested the case was.
Even if the driver crossed multiple state lines to get to Philadelphia, it is not the FBI’s jurisdiction; a hit-and-run is investigated by the local police wherever the hit-and-run occurred.
However, the FBI does investigate terrorist attacks, especially those possibly concerning outside influence from foreign groups.
Perhaps most interesting of all, the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenner, felt the need to weigh in on the shooting. He wondered to reporters if the officer needed to kill Khalil.
He also asked why the officer had to shoot Khalil as many times as he shot him.
What the FBI investigation will turn up is difficult to say at this point. Though there are many elements of a terrorist motive in this attack, it could simply be an angry ‘music producer’ who just happened to be a Muslim.
Hopefully, the FBI will be forthcoming with the information that they find. The people of Philadelphia deserve an honest answer as to whether or not they were attacked by a terrorist who tried to run down random people walking the streets of their city.