Elias Abuelazam (Courtesy Fulton County Jail)
An artist's sketch of the stabbing suspect, released by the Michigan State Police
Elias Abuelazam in a mug shot taken after a traffic stop on Aug. 5. (Arlington, VA Police Dept.)
A second mug shot of Abuelazam, taken by the Loudon Co., Va., Police Department, from an unrelated arrest.
ATLANTA -- A man arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Wednesday is a suspect in a series of at least 18 stabbings in three states, according to police.
Fourteen of the stabbings happened in Flint, Mich., three in Leesburg, Va., and one in Toledo, Ohio. According to officials, many of the stabbings appear to be racially motivated.
Flint court records show Judge Tracy Collier-Nix signed a warrant Thursday morning charging Elias Abuelazam, 33, with assault with intent to murder in the July 27 stabbing of Antwione Marshall.
Authorities said Abuelazam is an Israeli citizen in the US legally. He had an expired Israeli passport and was reportedly traveling on it at the time of his arrest at Hartsfield-Jackson.
According to Delta Air Lines officials, Abuelazam was scheduled to board a 10:15 p.m. flight from Gate E-17.
Michigan authorities said they tracked Abuelazam to Atlanta Wednesday. Genessee County Prosecutor David Leyton said investigators used technology to track Abuelazam to Kentucky. "Technology assisted law enforcement in locating the defendant near the airport in Louisville, Kentucky," he said.
Leyton said because of his proximity to an airport investigators asked the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to check flight databases. The TSA determined that Abuelazam booked recently purchased a flight from Atlanta To Tel Aviv, Israel.
At 9:30PM Wednesday Michigan State Police phoned Atlanta Police to tell them that Abuelazam was waiting to board a flight to Tel Aviv at Gate E-17. According to an Atlanta police incident report three officers approached the gate and had Abuelazam paged to the ticket counter. "He was taken into custody without incident when he approached the ticket counter in response to the page," said Atlanta Police Spokesperson Carlos Campos.
Passengers on the flight, which arrived Thursday in Tel Aviv, said the suspect was arrested at the boarding gate shortly before takeoff.
Sandra Hasegawa with U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed Abuelazam was taken into custody prior to boarding.
News conferences were held Thursday afternoon in Michigan and Virginia. Leesburg, VA Police Chief Joseph Price said they still have a lot of work to do in three stabbing investigations. "I'm confident in saying we can place Abuelazam in the Northern Virginia area during the time of our attacks," he said.
In Flint, Michigan, Prosecutor Leyton was more certain. "The suspect in the fourteen stabbing assaults in our community has been apprehended," he said.
Stabbing victim Etwan Wilson had some advice for the suspect: "You just need to find somebody to talk to whether it's going to be in prison, you need to get that off your chest, you just don't go around ruining other families," he said.
Abuelazam spent the day at the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Facility before he was transported to Atlanta Police Homicide Squad for questioning by Flint, Michigan police. A source told 11 Alive News that by the time they tried to question him, Abuelazam got a lawyer and refused to talk.
He was transported to the Fulton County Jail where he is being held pending an extradition hearing. He will appear before a Fulton County Superior Court Judge in the next few days. If he waives extradition, he could be taken back to Michigan immediately. If he fights extradition, it could take days or weeks before the legal process plays out.
(The Associated Press, The Detroit Free Press and NBC News contributed to this report.)