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Woman shot, killed after charging Temple Terrace officer with knife, officials say

Temple Terrace police Chief Kenneth Albano said he doesn’t know why the woman attacked the officer outside City Hall.

TEMPLE TERRACE — Police officers shot and killed a woman who charged at one of them with a butcher knife outside of City Hall on Friday afternoon, officials said.

“Had no alternative but to shoot,” said Temple Terrace police Chief Kenneth Albano at a news conference held after the incident.

The woman was identified as 21-year-old Heba Momtaz Alazhari, police said.

Spectrum Bay News 9 reported that she is the sister of Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari, a 23-year-old Tampa man arrested earlier this week by the FBI on a federal charge of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State group. Two people speaking on behalf of the family confirmed that to the Tampa Bay Times.

Related: Tampa Islamic State supporter rehearsed attack, tried to buy gun before arrest, FBI says

The officer who was attacked was not named by officials, who said he suffered non life-threatening injuries.

The incident took place at about 1 p.m. The woman arrived at City Hall and asked for an officer’s help, officials said. Then when a uniformed officer went outside, the chief said she charged at him with a knife for “unknown reasons."

She was quickly shot by officers, officials said. The chief did not say how many officers were involved, how many fired their weapons or how many times the woman was shot. The officer who was attacked did fire his weapon, Albano said.

A security camera outside City Hall captured the first 30 seconds of the confrontation. There is no sound, but Albano said he heard the officer shouting at the woman to "drop the knife, drop the knife” several times before she was shot.

Evidence markers are seen on the ground outside Temple Terrace City Hall on Friday. Temple Terrace police officers shot and killed a woman who attacked one of them with a knife, city officials said. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The video released by the city showed the woman sitting outside of City Hall, her hands in her lap, waiting for the officer to approach.

The officer walked toward her and stood between her and the camera. He appeared to be within 5 feet of her. Where she hid the knife cannot be seen. Then the officer suddenly jumped back. The knife could now be seen in her right hand.

The officer quickly backed up as the armed woman approached, according to the video, and his right hand appeared to reach for his sidearm.

The woman quickly closed in, and the officer ran to his right as she slashed the knife at him from right to left. She appeared to just miss him as they run out of camera view. All of that took place in 15 seconds.

In the last 10 seconds of the video, another Temple Terrace officer appeared to be running toward the building to help the other officer. The shooting was not captured on video.

An unidentified woman wipes her eye outside Temple Terrace City Hall on Friday after officials said a woman was fatally shot after attacking an officer with a knife. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The shooting took place at about 1:15 p.m., according to the video time stamp. The woman was taken to a local hospital, where she died.

The chief said it is standard procedure for the department to place an officer involved in such an incident on administrative leave.

The woman’s family could not be reached for comment.

The FBI arrested Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari on Sunday and accused him of surfing Islamic State chatrooms, recording himself rehearsing a terror attack, buying a submachine gun and trying to obtain firearm parts.

Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari, 23, is charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, [ Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

He served three years in prison in Saudi Arabia for attempting to join the Islamic State in Syria with his father and two others, according to the criminal complaint. He returned to the U.S. in late 2018 and later moved to Tampa.

He is now being held in the Pinellas County jail at the request of federal agents.

The Temple Terrace Police Department is working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident, Albano said.

“We want it to be clear that this was unprovoked,” the chief said.