The man accused of trying to run over an El Paso police officer and rolling his SUV while fleeing the scene Thursday morning once worked as an FBI informant and is reportedly fairly positive he could have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Elie Assaad, 38, was arrested Thursday evening shortly after being released from the hospital following the incident on the UTEP campus. Assaad is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly struck the police officer with his vehicle, according to the complaint affidavit. El Paso County Jail records show he is being held on a $25,000 bond.
Assaad is the same man who was the focus of an ABC News investigative report that aired on Sept. 10, 2009. In the report, Assaad told Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross that he worked as an FBI informant for 13 years. The Lebanon native claims he infiltrated terrorist cells in Miami and had multiple conversations with Mohamed Atta, one of the masterminds of the 9-11 attacks.
Ross asked Assaad, "You could have stopped the attacks?" "Yes," replied Assaad.
Assaad claimed in the interview that his FBI handlers told him to leave Atta alone and to instead follow two other men Assaad called "wannabe terrorists." Watch the ABC News interview here.
The FBI told ABC-7 they would not comment on Thursday's incident, nor on Assaad's interview with Ross.
Assaad's Myspace status update from 2009 states, "Who is Elie Assaad?Where he was and what he did for the last 13 years. Next week EXCLUSIVE on ABC. The biggest secret ever will be out live on ABC."
The El Paso County Website lists Assaad as a business owner of Universe Picture Productions. An online article posted by the Fort Bliss Monitor profiled the talent agency, which seeks to employ musical talents, models and entertainment visual prospects for use in films, commercials, music videos and marketing campaigns.
As for the incident that led to Assaad's arrest, El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry told ABC-7 it started when an officer tried pulling him over as he exited I-10 west at Porfirio Diaz St. The officer said Assaad refused to stop, continuing on until he reached the UTEP campus. Assaad allegedly drove over a curb on the roundabout at Sun Bowl Dr. and University Ave. and hit a light pole before eventually stopping in the parking lot west of that intersection.
Petry told ABC-7 when the officer got out of his patrol car and approached the SUV, the Assaad allegedly backed his SUV up and hit the police unit and the officer. The officer fired two rounds before the driver took off east on University.
The officer followed the SUV down University. Petry told ABC-7 a female passenger got out of the vehicle when it got stuck on a traffic island on Randolph. Officers detained the passenger and continued pursuing Assaad, who ended up flipping his vehicle over on Rim Rd. and University.
The officer involved in Thursday's incident has been identified as Jorge Gonzalez, a six-and-a-half year veteran of the El Paso Police Dept. assigned to Central Regional Command Center's Traffic enforcement. There are three independent investigations into Thursday's shooting. One by the El Paso Police Dept.'s Crimes Against Persons Unit, one by the El Paso Police Department's Shooting Response Team; and one by the Office of District Attorney Jaime Esparza. As is customary, the officer will be placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigations.
Both Assaad and the woman were treated at University Medical Center and released. The police officer, a six-year veteran of the force, was treated at Las Palmas Medical Center and also released.