Breaking news reports say the police have detained Elias Abuelazam as a ‘person if interest’ in the serial stabber case. The white man that has reportedly been targeting black men across the east coast was captured at Hartsfield Airport early this morning.
A “person of interest” in a series of killings in Michigan and attacks in Leesburg and Ohio has been taken into custody in Atlanta, authorities said Thursday morning. Police believe the attacks, almost all of which have targeted dark-skinned victims, are racially motivated.
The possible suspect was captured by authorities at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where he was about to board a flight to Tel Aviv, a law enforcement source told The Washington Post. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the man has relatives in the Leesburg area.
Leesburg police spokesman Chris Jones said the individual also has ties to Flint, Michigan, where most of the attacks have taken place. News stations in Michigan reported that the man worked in Beecher, just north of Flint. The man was taken into custody and was being held on unrelated charges, Jones said.
Authorities in Michigan have scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m.
“While this is a key step in the investigation, there are still many issues that need to be addressed before we identify this individual as the person responsible for this horrific crime spree,” Jones said in a statement. “All agencies and investigators continue to work closely to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion. As more information is solidified, additional information will be released.”
Police said earlier this week that the “Flint serial killer,” who is thought to have killed five men and wounded 10 — almost all of them black — also was suspected in stabbing or attacking three dark-skinned men in Leesburg.
Authorities in Toledo, Ohio suspect the same man may be responsible for stabbing a 59-year-old man in that city over the weekend.
The Toledo man was reported in critical condition early this week. All of the Leesburg victims are expected to recover.
Authorities have not conclusively linked the crimes through DNA or other forensic evidence, but they said there are striking similarities among the attacks, all of which were unprovoked.
The attacker has consistently been described as a tall, muscular white man who often wears a baseball cap. He often gets close to victims by asking for directions or for help with his car; other times he says nothing at all while he approaches his targets from behind. All of the victims were alone when they were attacked.
One of the most compelling links among the crimes is the suspect’s sport-utility vehicle, police said. In Virginia, Michigan and Ohio, he was seen in a dark-green Chevrolet Blazer with tan paneling at the bottom.
The Virginia assaults began Aug. 3, when a teenager out for a nighttime jog suddenly felt a sharp pain, then turned to see a man who had plunged a knife in his back. Two days later and a short distance away, a 67-year-old man who was sitting on the stoop outside his apartment was stabbed by a person who police suspect was the same assailant. On Friday, police say, the same attacker is believed to have asked a 19-year-old man for help fixing the Blazer, then struck him in the head with a hammer.
The Friday night attack was recorded by a nearby security camera, providing investigators with an image of both the suspect and the vehicle.