Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) — A man trying to board a flight to Israel was taken into custody Wednesday night in Atlanta in connection with the stabbings of 20 people in three states, police said. Five of the victims died.
The attacks, which first began in May, occurred in Michigan, Virginia and Ohio. Police were conducting a multistate search for a suspect and had recently released a composite sketch.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they arrested the man at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday as he attempted to board Delta Air Lines Flight 152 bound for Tel Aviv, Israel, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. A Department of Homeland Security official said the National Targeting Center had looked at the passenger list and saw his name on the manifest.
Upon confirmation of his identity, the man was placed in the custody of the FBI and Atlanta Police Department.
The Transportation Security Administration asked Delta officials to hold that particular flight, a Department of Homeland Security official said. The official said the man was apprehended on murder-related charges as he was boarding the aircraft.
A federal law enforcement official involved in the investigation said the man was traveling on an expired Israeli passport.
Atlanta police said Thursday that officers at the airport precinct were involved in the apprehension and detention of a man sought by Michigan authorities for questioning in connection with a series of homicides and stabbings.
Leesburg, Virginia, police spokesman Chris Jones did not release the man’s name and did not refer to him as a suspect.
“We just want to be absolutely certain that we’re not rushing to judgment on that … He’s certainly a very strong person of interest,” Jones said. “We just want to make sure that the link is 100 percent solidified, to link him to the incidents.”
Over the past week, investigators from the Michigan Task Force, Leesburg police, Toledo, Ohio, police, FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigated leads and tips from the public.
One of those tips on Wednesday “developed into a strong investigative lead that identified an individual who has ties to both the Flint, Michigan, and Leesburg, Virginia, areas,” police said.
“While this is a key step in the investigation, there are still many issues that need to be addressed before we identify this individual as the person responsible for this horrific crime spree,” police said.
Another federal law enforcement source said the suspect remains in custody in Atlanta and will have an initial appearance there in next few days.