A Montreal man charged with stabbing a police officer in the neck at a Michigan airport on Wednesday tried to buy a gun before the attack but was denied, the authorities said on Thursday.
The man, Amor M. Ftouhi, entered the United States from Canada last Friday, crossing over in his car into upstate New York, and making his way to Michigan on Sunday. While in Michigan, Mr. Ftouhi tried to buy a gun, the F.B.I. said, but it is illegal for nonresidents to buy and take possession of a gun in the United States.
After that purchase failed, Mr. Ftouhi decided to attack with a knife, which he bought in the United States, the authorities said. The additional details about the planning that went into the attack emerged on Thursday as a hazy portrait formed of Mr. Ftouhi, a 50-year-old married father of three who had worked as a truck driver in Canada.
Mr. Ftouhi, who was born in Tunisia and is a Tunisian and Canadian citizen, has lived in Canada for 10 years, according to an audio recording from his appearance in United States District Court on Wednesday. Mr. Ftouhi’s mother, three of his sisters and two brothers are in Tunisia and another sister lives in Switzerland.
Court officials said he had no history of drug or alcohol abuse or mental health issues. Mr. Ftouhi’s lawyer, Joan Morgan, declined to comment on Thursday. Mr. Ftouhi, who was ordered held without bail, is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
Mr. Ftouhi worked off and on as a truck driver, most recently two weeks ago, according to the recording. On his Facebook page, Mr. Ftouhi said he worked at Industrielle Alliance, a large Canadian insurance company.
Pierre Picard, a spokesman for the company, said in an email on Thursday that Mr. Ftouhi studied to join the company from February to July 2011.
“However, he left the company before obtaining his certificate,” Mr. Picard wrote. “He was never a representative of Industrial Alliance.”
On Wednesday evening, the police conducted a raid on the apartment in the St.-Michel neighborhood of Montreal where Mr. Ftouhi lived. A spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Quebec declined to comment about the raid on Thursday.
Luciano Piazza, Mr. Ftouhi’s landlord, said he was “very surprised” to hear about his tenant, CBC News reported.
“He’s a good person, very quiet,” Mr. Piazza said, adding that Mr. Ftouhi and his family moved in more than five years ago.
David P. Gelios, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Detroit office, which is leading the investigation, said on Thursday that Mr. Ftouhi was on not any law enforcement watch lists for terrorist suspects in the United States or Canada. Mr. Gelios said the authorities were still trying to determine why Mr. Ftouhi drove from Montreal to Flint, Mich., for the attack, but Mr. Gelios said he may have chosen the location, the Bishop International Airport, because it had the word international in it.
Mr. Ftouhi shouted “Allahu akbar” — the Arabic words for “God is great” — and plunged a 12-inch knife into the neck of the police officer, Lt. Jeff Neville, on Wednesday morning at the airport in Flint, officials said.
The authorities called the attack an “act of terrorism.”
Lieutenant Neville survived the attacked and was in satisfactory condition on Wednesday, an airport official said. A law enforcement official said four people helped subdue Mr. Ftouhi, adding that Lieutenant Neville himself fought back.
The attack happened around 9:45 a.m. at the top of an escalator just inside the airport entrance. After the attack, the authorities said, Mr. Ftouhi yelled “Allah” several more times and shouted, “You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”
Mr. Gelios attributed the attack to Mr. Ftouhi’s “hatred for the United States and a variety of other things.”
The authorities said that Mr. Ftouhi had legally entered the United States on Friday at Lake Champlain before making his way to Flint. He arrived at the airport on Wednesday morning, and Mr. Gelios said the authorities were looking for people who may have seen Mr. Ftouhi during the time he entered the United States and the attack on Wednesday.
Mr. Ftouhi was charged with violence at an international airport. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the crime, though additional charges could arise, Mr. Gelios said.