VIDEO - American authorities arrested a "person of interest" of Israeli descent on Wednesday on suspicion of being involved in serial killings in three different states. The man was identified by law enforcement sources as Elias Abuelazam, 33, the Washington Post reported.
Media outlets in the United States reported that the suspect was removed from a flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv.
A spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection says the agency's officers arrested the man about 10 pm Wednesday night at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, as he attempted to board a Delta flight for Tel Aviv. The suspect was handed over to the FBI and Atlanta police.
FOX News reported that the man has a dual citizenship – Israeli and American – and that more than 500 tips helped lead to his arrest. The US law enforcement authorities were aware of his identity and his name was placed on a black list of people not allowed to leave the country. The suspect was apparently caught after making the mistake of registering for the flight.
Coverage of killings by American media
According to the Atlanta Journal, the suspect had an expired Israeli passport and was about to board a plane to Tel Aviv when agents from several law enforcement agencies swooped in.
CNN reported that air traffic in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson was stopped temporarily until the man was in custody.
The NBC network reported that the suspect was of Israeli descent and worked as a clerk near a bar and liquor store near Flint, Michigan.
'Attacks may have been racially motivated'
Police in Leesburg, Virginia said the man was being held on unrelated charges. Leesburg Police Officer Chris Jones says authorities believe the man could be the suspect.
Jones says police "have information that he was trying to leave the country." The attacks started May 24 in Flint.
"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," the Leesburg Police Department said in a news conference.
Police had been focusing on that area until Leesburg police reported three similar attacks last week. Toledo, Ohio, authorities also say a stabbing in that city Saturday appears to be linked to the Michigan cases.
Authorities said the serial killer is responsible for at least 16 attacks in Flint, Michigan, five of them fatal. Fourteen of his victims were said to be black men.
Police have said the man's attacks usually follow a pattern: He approaches black men late at night on lonely urban roads, and asks for directions or help with a broken-down car. Then, without warning, he pulls out a knife and strikes. Then, he speeds away in his vehicle, leaving them for dead.
The brazen nature and the frequency of the attacks - the assailant has struck an average of about once every four days since the first stabbing in May - has terrified some of those in cities he's already targeted.
As the victims have been mostly black, police have suspected the attacks may have been racially motivated. The youngest victim was 17; the oldest was 60.
The Toledo victim, who survived, was stabbed twice in the abdomen August 7, while taking a cigarette break outside the church where he works, NBC reported.
"I believe his motivation is pure hatred," Leesburg Police Chief Joseph Price said at a news conference Thursday.
The Flint Journal repored that dozens of angry residents had gathered outside Kingwater Market in Beecher, talking about the man they knew as "Eli" who worked behind the counter.
Abdullah Farah, manager of the store, said police on Wednesday watched store surveillance tapes of the man working. He was later arrested.
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