WASHINGTON – New York police said the driver of a rented Home Depot pick-up truck killed at least eight males when he allegedly mowed into bicyclists and pedestrians on a bike path in lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon – in the first deadly terror attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.
The male driver, who was shot by police, is in custody at a local hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said at an evening news conference at New York Poiice Department headquarters, about two hours after the attack. He said the attack began at 3:05 p.m. EDT.
The NYPD and the FBI are jointly investigating the incident as a terror attack.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the news conference: “This was an attack of terror – and a particularly cowardly attack aimed at innocent civiilians, aimined at people ging about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them..”
“We know that this action was intended to break our spirit. But we also knoow New Yorkers are strong, New Yorkers are resilient and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence, an act meant to intimidate us.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the mayor and the police commissioner. He acknowledged that New York is a prime target for terrorists. He expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and spoke about the resilience of New Yorkers and Americans in the face of constant threats.
Commissioner O’Neill said the driver was a 29-year-old man but he would not release his name. O’Neill said the suspect was not a New Yorker but would not disclose where he was from nor would he name the hospital where the suspect was taken.
After hitting cyclists, pedestrians and joggers, the driver slammed the truck into a school bus, police said. According to witnesses, he then reportedly got out of the truck, pointed what appeared to be two guns and shouted “Allahu akbar!” The Arabic phrase translates to “God is great!”
The police commissioner acknowledged that the suspect yelled a phrase commonly used by terrorists, and that is why the incident is being considered a terror attack. But he would not confirm the exact phrase.
Police recovered a pellet gun and a paint gun from the scene, according to the NYPD’s Twitter feed.
Although initial reports said police shot the suspect in the leg, Commissioner O’Neill said the man was shot in the abdomen. Police protocol is to aim for center mass, so it would be unusual for police to shoot a suspect in the leg – especially one believed to be armed.
Two adults and two children on the schoolbus were injured but not seriously, O’Neill said.
Commissioner Daniel Nigro of the Fire Department of New York told reporters that six victims died at the scene and two others died later. He said all of the deceased victims were males. Eleven people have serious but non-life-threatening injuried, he added.
Home Depot confirmed to CNN that the company rented the truck and that the company is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.
ISIS has encouraged followers to make lone-wolf terror attacks and suggested using vehicles as one such method to kill people. Several such attacks have been made in England and France in the past few years, including one in Nice, France in July 2016 that killed 86 people. No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.
The bike path is about three blocks from and has a clear view of Freedom Tower, which was erected on the site of the former World Trade Center towers. Nearly 3,000 people were killed after terrorists flew planes into the twin towers on 9/11 in the country’s deadliest terrorist attack.