MANHATTAN (PIX11) — More questions are emerging about Trevor Bickford, the 19-year-old man who is charged with two counts of attempted murder for allegedly attacking three NYPD officers with a machete on New Year’s Eve near Times Square. 

Bickford is a former high school athlete from Maine, with no criminal past. Investigators are reviewing Bickford’s online postings, which reportedly include references to Islamic extremism. 

Multiple reports claim Bickford converted to Islam after his father’s death in 2018. John Jay College professor Ibrahim Bechrouri said this is what’s called a “cognitive opening.”

“[It’s] an event in someone’s life that makes someone more suggestible, more likely to adopt your believes, engage in violence, etc.,” said Bechrouri. 

Bechrouri said terrorist groups usually target men between the ages of 16 and 35, and use real issues – such as economic turmoil – to pull them in. 

“They mix that with a lot of heroism – ‘You’re going to become a hero’ – with a lot of conspiracy theories, and also a lot of guilt-inducing language,” said Bechrouri. “Such as, ‘Are you going to let this thing happen?’ Whatever these things are.”

Bechrouri said extremist groups often communicate on alternative social media platforms that are encrypted and unregulated. He said this applies to jihadi groups, as well as far-right organizations in the United States. 

“When you look at their beliefs – what they believe life should be, when it comes to the place of women, when it comes to LGBTQ communities, when it comes to tolerance to beliefs that are slightly different from them, or different from them – they’re really similar,” said Bechrouri.