Trevor Bickford enters a subway station in New York City on Dec. 31, 2022. He pleaded guilty to attacking three police officers with a knife in Times Square. Surveillance image from court documents

Trevor Bickford’s first psychotic symptom came in spring 2022 when he felt like his soul was being ripped from his body.

Over the next few months, more hallucinations emerged: visions of a shadowy figure out of the corner of his eye, tingling sensations in his hands and lips, a feeling that a leech was on his face. Popping sounds in his ears that told him if he was making the right decisions.

By winter, the Wells native was obsessively watching YouTube videos about Islam, praying for six hours a day and planning to go to the Middle East to join the Taliban. On New Year’s Eve 2022, he went to Times Square in New York, where he attacked three police officers with a large knife he had carried with him from Maine.

Bickford, now 20, pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted murder in January and is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in New York. He faces up to 120 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Bickford’s attack was an act of “radical Islamic jihad” that he had planned for months by studying materials promoted by the Taliban and contemplated ways to kill as many officers as possible.

“The defendant’s crimes were premeditated and intentional. The defendant plotted to kill those who did not subscribe to the extremist strain of Islam he embraced. His goal was to kill as many military-aged men who worked for the U.S. Government as he could,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in federal court.


They say a sentence of at least 50 years with a lifetime of supervised release is appropriate punishment for the “ferocious attack” on police officers.

According to court documents, Trevor Bickford joined the Civil Air Patrol program in Sanford where he trained for two years and learned how to fly a plane. He had hoped to enlist in the Air Force. Photo from court document

But defense attorneys from the Federal Defenders of New York are asking a judge to impose a sentence of 10 years in prison with 15 years of supervised release. They say Bickford is ashamed of his actions and it wasn’t until after his arrest that he received needed mental health treatment.

“Three well-respected experts with extensive backgrounds in terrorism-related cases have opined that Mr. Bickford’s actions on December 31, 2022, were not the result of radicalization or extremism, but a product of ongoing auditory, tactile and visual hallucinations,” attorneys Marisa Cabrera and Jennifer Brown wrote in an April 25 letter to Judge P. Kevin Castel.

They asked Castel to take into account the role Bickford’s untreated mental illness played in his offense, the low likelihood of recidivism given his current treatment, the abuse he witnessed and suffered in his youth, and his demonstrated rehabilitation. They noted that Bickford’s hallucinations have decreased since starting antipsychotic medications.

Bickford, in a letter to the judge, said he takes “full responsibility for my terrible crime.”

“I didn’t know it then, but I was sick. I was hearing voices and noises that weren’t there, but to me, they felt real,” Bickford wrote. “By the time I attacked the officers, I had become someone else.”



In letters to the judge, Bickford’s attorneys, friends and family describe a young man who excelled in school and athletics, despite living in fear of an abusive father who pushed Bickford to participate in wrestling, forcing him through extreme dieting when he was as young as 9 to maintain his weight class. They said Bickford struggled with depression and became increasingly withdrawn in the months before the attack.

According to Bickford’s attorneys, his father pushed him to participate in wrestling and would force him to maintain highly restrictive diets as young as 9 years old to ensure he made his weight class. Photo from a court document

Bickford began to spiral after his father died in 2018. He believed his father died by suicide after Bickford had cut off contact with him and only recently learned that his father died of an accidental overdose. Bickford descended into a deep depression, used alcohol to numb his pain and once carved a large X on his chest, his attorneys said.

When Bickford began to explore different religions, he heard a loud pop in his ear and felt his tongue tingling when he opened the Quran, which he took as signs that Islam was right for him, his attorneys said. They described how his obsession with the religion grew quickly as he changed his manner of speaking, began attending mosques in Maine and New Hampshire, and spent hours praying each day.

When Bickford told his mother, Audra Simpson, in December 2022 that he believed he was a prophet and needed to travel to the Middle East, she reached out to local police for help. She took him to Spring Harbor Hospital on Dec. 10 because she was concerned about his psychotic behavior. He was taken to Maine Medical Center by ambulance, then discharged with a referral for outpatient treatment, a decision that infuriated Simpson according to a letter she wrote to the judge.

“I was baffled and I was exhausted, it was now 3 a.m. and all I wanted to do was to go to bed. I felt deflated. He was so obviously out of his mind and they wouldn’t even keep him for observation,” Simpson wrote.


In hospital records, staff noted that Bickford had “thoughts of harming others,” “expressed intent for harming others” and presented a “risk of elopement,” according to court records.

His family then contacted the FBI and agents met with Bickford on Dec. 13. Bickford told agents that he had bought a plane ticket to Jordan, but decided to cancel the trip so he could see his older brother the following weekend, according to court records.

Sixteen days later, Bickford took a train to New York City, where he checked into the Bowery Hotel. He mostly stayed in his room, watching YouTube videos, using a dark web app on his phone and eating food he brought from home to save money.

On New Year’s Eve, Bickford donated $2,000 to a charity, stashed his sleeping bag and food in Queens, then traveled to Times Square. He ate at a food cart, prayed, then attacked the officers with a machete-like blade while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic. The attack ended when one of the officers shot Bickford in the shoulder.


Prosecutors say the attack “left his victims – including those he forced to witness and live through a terrorist attack – traumatized.”


One officer, who was working his first day after graduating from the NYPD academy, suffered a skull fracture and laceration to the back of his head that required more than a dozen stitches. He missed more than three months of work. The second officer continues to suffer pain from his injuries, constantly relives the trauma of the attack and is afraid to return to Manhattan, prosecutors said.

The third officer still has migraines, degraded speech and memory, and post-traumatic stress disorder, prosecutors said in the sentencing memo. He has not been able to return to work. He said “everything” in his life has changed and the assault may end his career, prosecutors wrote.

All three officers told the United States Probation Office that they think life in prison is the appropriate sentence.

Prosecutors told the judge that the sentence suggested by defense attorneys “would be entirely inappropriate and out of line with the defendant’s conduct and with sentences imposed on similarly situated defendants.”

“After considering his options, researching his target location, and settling on his plan of attack, he packed a machete-like blade measuring more than a foot in length and went to one of the most densely populated areas in the United States at one of the most densely populated times – Times Square on New Year’s Eve,” prosecutors said. “He then ambushed three NYPD officers keeping watch over the gathered celebrants, declared ‘Allahu Akbar,’ and struck them with his blade.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.