Two seemingly contradictory portraits are emerging of Michael Enright, the 21-year old aspiring filmmaker arraigned yesterday on hate crimes charges for allegedly stabbing a New York City cab driver because he was Muslim.There’s the Michael Enright who volunteered for an interfaith group, whose Facebook profile picture was with a young girl he met on his trip to Afghanistan, and who liked the book Angela’s Ashes, movies like “Boys Don’t Cry” and music by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Michael Enright that neighbor Alma Quinlan knew was a “great kid who is very sociable and attentive to his mother.”
Then there’s the Michael Enright who reportedly had a serious drinking problem and slit the throat of a cab driver while yelling “This is a checkpoint, this is checkpoint, motherf**ker, I have to put you down.”
Law enforcement sources say that Enright was carrying a personal diary with him during the attack, though the exact nature of its contents are a source of dispute. One police source described them to the New York Daily News as “filled with pages of ‘pretty strong anti-Muslim comments.'” That source added that the diary “equated Muslims with ‘killers, ungrateful for the help they were being offered, filthy murderers without a conscience.'” Another law enforcement source disputed that characterization, suggesting instead to the AP that they were mere journals of Enright’s time in Afghanistan — and that they were found with an empty bottle of Scotch.
Enright’s reference to a “checkpoint” likely stems from his trip to Afghanistan earlier this year. Friends say Enright definitely changed after getting back from the region, where he was shooting a documentary on a high school friend.
He had been embedded with Task Force Leatherneck in the Helmand province for five weeks during April and early May 2010, a military official said. Enright was registered as working for TV-Worldwide, and was filming his documentary on the 1st Battalion/3rd Marines home-based in Hawaii, Lt. Cmdr. Katie Kendrick, a public affairs officer with the British Royal Navy, told TPMMuckraker.
Alex Eckner, the high school friend of Enright who serves in that Marine battalion, referred TPMMuckraker to his Marine Corps base’s public affairs office in Hawaii, which did not immediately return a call on Thursday morning.
When he returned from his trip, Enright was different, a neighbor and longtime friend identified as Jesse told the New York Daily News.
“He said it was chaos,” said Jesse. “He did mention that they lost a few troops over there.”
By the time he was arrested on Tuesday in midtown Manhattan, Enright had a personal journal on him that was filled with pages of “pretty strong anti-Muslim comments,” a police source told The New York Daily News.
His diary equated Muslims with “killers, ungrateful for the help they were being offered, filthy murderers without a conscience.” A top Muslim American organization said the event shows the dangers of extreme anti-Islamic rhetoric.
An account by cab driver Ahmed H. Sharif said that Enright was asking him questions about how long he had been in the U.S., if he was Muslim and if he was fasting during Ramadan. Enright was silent for a few minutes before he starting cursing and screaming before the stabbing, according to a statement.
Enrigh yelled “Assalamu Alaikum”and “consider this a checkpoint” before attacking Sharif, police said. The taxi driver was scheduled to meet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday.
[Ed note: This post was updated after publication to acknowledge differing characterizations of Enright’s diaries.]