NEW YORK — The head of the New York City schools system says two staff members and two students were injured in a school bus that was struck by a motorist who drove a rented truck onto a bike path, killing eight people.
Efforts to rescue the occupants of the school bus were caught on camera by local resident Sebastian Sobczak, who turned on the camera of his phone after being caught up in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Tuesday’s attack near the World Trade Center and several schools has been called an “act of terror” by city officials.
The 29-year-old suspect, identified as Sayfullo Saipov, is accused of driving a rented truck down a bike path near the World Trade Center and hitting more than a dozen people before crashing into the school bus. He then got out of the truck brandishing firearms.
A police officer shot him in the stomach. He was taken to the hospital for surgery. Officers were able to talk to him before the surgery, but it was unclear if he told them anything, a law enforcement source told CNN.
An official briefed on the investigation said the suspect rented the van about an hour before the attack. He was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.”
Investigators have learned the suspect is from Uzbekistan and came to the US in 2010.
Most recently, he lived in New Jersey, according to a law enforcement source. Neighbors said that he recently lived at least part-time in Paterson, New Jersey, not far from New York.
Just over six months ago, Saipov began driving for Uber in New Jersey, the company told CNN. He passed a background check and did not have any rider complaints about his safety as a driver, according to Uber.
He once listed his occupation as a truck driver, his marriage license shows.
The suspect had multiple interactions with law enforcement in several states, online records show. Saipov had traffic citations issued in Missouri and Pennsylvania. He was arrested by the Missouri State Highway Patrol in October 2016 after a warrant was issued when he failed to show in court for a misdemeanor offense. He paid a $200 bond, which he forfeited when he didn’t show up in court for his next hearing in November. A guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
In a matter of minutes, a popular bike path in New York’s lower Manhattan turned into a horrific scene. Crumpled bicycles littered the street as medics tended to the wounded.
Six people were declared dead at the scene, two were pronounced dead at the hospital and about a dozen were injured. Several were tourists visiting from abroad.
Five friends from Argentina who were celebrating their high school reunion were killed, Argentina’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
“The Argentine Government expresses its sincere condolences for the death of Argentine citizens Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi which occurred as a result of the dramatic terrorist attack in New York this afternoon,” the ministry said in a statement.
They had traveled to New York from Rosario, a town nearly 200 miles northwest of the country’s capital of Buenos Aires. They were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Polytechnic School, a technical high school in Rosario.
A sixth Argentine national who was also part of the group was injured during the attack. He was out of danger, the ministry said, but as of Tuesday night, he was still recovering at New York-Presbyterian’s Lower Manhattan Hospital.
“Deeply moved by the tragic deaths this afternoon in NY. We put ourselves at the disposition of the families of the Argentinian victims,” Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri tweeted.
Didier Reynders, deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister for Belgium, said a Belgian national was also among those killed on Tuesday’s attack.
Vehicles as weapons
Tuesday’s attack turned an ordinary vehicle into a lethal weapon, a tactic used in other recent attacks in the West.
In 2014, an ISIS spokesman called for lone wolf attacks using improvised weaponry. “If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock or slaughter him with a knife or run him over with your car or throw him down from a high place or choke him or poison him.”
Since 2014, there have been 15 vehicular attacks in the West by jihadist terrorists, killing 142 people, according to a count by New America, a nonpartisan research institution. Those figures include Tuesday’s attack in Manhattan.
For the past few years, police in New York have reached out to businesses that rent vehicles to warn them about possible terror threats and to let them know about ways to come forward.
“We did extensive outreach to the truck rental business. We visited over 148 truck rental locations in this area,” New York Police’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said at a Tuesday news conference. “The industry has had a high level of awareness on this matter from the NYPD.”
Miller said that if a company is suspicious of a would-be renter, they usually delay or simply deny a rental to let police investigate it.
The suspect drove a Home Depot rental truck he drove from New Jersey, Miller said.
A spokesman for Home Depot confirmed one of the company’s rental trucks was part of an incident in lower Manhattan and said the company is “cooperating with authorities” in the investigation.
More developments in the attack:
- The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said in an open letter published Wednesday that his country will use all “means necessary” to help the investigation into the New York terrorist attack.
- The New York police officer who shot and apprehended the suspect in Tuesday’s attack has been identified as Ryan Nash, a law enforcement source told CNN. The 28-year-old officer joined the department in 2012.
- Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter that five Argentine citizens were killed: Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi.
- Authorities found a note, written in English, in the truck police said was used in the attack claiming the suspect did it in the name of ISIS, a senior law enforcement official told CNN.