Police in Israel, where the suspect in 18 U.S. stabbings grew up, said today that the man, identified as Elias Abuelazam, 33, was believed to have been involved with drugs and stabbed a friend during a recent visit to Israel.
Acquaintances of the young Abuelazam told the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv that he was a quiet young man who was occasionally beaten up because he was considered something of a "geek."
"That's why it's so surprising to me, this whole story," a former acquaintance told the newspaper.
Neighbors in the mixed-Arab-Jewish city of Ramle said Abuelazam left for the United States at age 20 after running afoul of "criminal elements" and getting involved with drugs. They said he intended to study to be a pharmacist but did not know whether he actually completed his studies.
On a visit to Beit She'an a few months ago, Abuelazam stabbed a friend in the neck "for no reason," a family acquaintance said.
Ramle police confirmed that the incident took place but said the victim chose not to press charges, Ma'ariv reported. They said Abuelazam got into an argument with the friend while they sat in a car, which led to a fight that ended when Abuelazam stabbed the man in the upper body with a screwdriver. The identity and condition of the man could not immediately be determined.
Abuelazam's mother locked herself in her house and refused to speak to a throng of reporters camped outside.