A 25-year-old man was arrested after police believe he acted alone, stabbing victims in a public park on Saturday

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 22, 2020 09:14 AM
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Three people were killed in a terror attack at a public park in the U.K. over the weekend, including one American.

The stabbing incident occurred at about 7 p.m. local time on Saturday at Forbury Gardens in Reading, England, leaving three dead and three others injured, according to Thames Valley Police. Authorities arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of murder, as the case was soon declared a terrorist attack.

"The response and community spirit I have witnessed has been very moving. It is now more important than ever that everyone plays their part in tackling terrorism," local Superintendent Nicholas John said in a statement.

"Communities defeat terrorism," John continued, "in times of adversity we must come together as one community as the co-operation between each other is our most powerful defense."

He added: "I am proud to be part of the diverse Reading community and we will together stand up against those who aim to divide us."

A police officer lays flowers, given by a member of the public, at an entrance of Forbury Gardens park in Reading on June 22, 2020.
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Students and parents lay flowers and pay their respects to the murdered school teacher James Furlong outside The Holt School, on June 22, 2020, in Wokingham, England.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Woody Johnson, the United States Ambassador to the U.K., addressed the deadly attack, confirming on Twitter that one of the people killed was a U.S. citizen.

"I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack on June 20. To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen," wrote Johnson. "Our thoughts are with all those affected. We condemn the attack absolutely and have offered our assistance to British law enforcement."

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Though Johnson didn't reveal the American victim's identity, a family member told The Philadelphia Enquirer that his name was Joe Ritchie-Bennett. The 39-year-old had lived in the U.K. area for 15 years, according to the outlet.

Ritchie-Bennett married his partner Ian Bennett in 2006, according to the Enquirer. Ian died in 2014 at age 32 after a battle with colon cancer.

"I absolutely love my son with all of my heart and all of my soul," Ritchie-Bennett's father told the outlet, as his older brother added: "Our family is heartbroken and beside ourselves; he did not deserve to go out like this."

Students and parents lay flowers and pay their respects to the murdered school teacher James Furlong outside The Holt School, on June 22, 2020, in Wokingham, England.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Authorities confirmed the identity of one other victim, James Furlong, 36. His parents released a statement via the Thames Valley Police Department, saying: "James was a wonderful man. He was beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun."

"He was the best son, brother, uncle and partner you could wish for," continued the statement. "We are thankful for the memories he gave us all. We will never forget him and he will live in our hearts forever."

According to the U.K. Counter Terrorism Policing unit, the suspect was believed to have been acting alone. Motivation for the "heinous act" is still unclear, authorities said in a press release, also clarifying that the incident was not connected to a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest happening in the same park hours earlier.