Police say at least a dozen were injured Tuesday afternoon when a driver allegedly mowed down pedestrians and bikers
Eight people were killed and at least a dozen injured on Tuesday when a truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a lower Manhattan bike path in what officials said was a “cowardly act of terror.”
The driver shouted “God is great” in Arabic when he got out of his truck and was confronted by police, a law-enforcement official said. He was identified by officials as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old from Tampa, Fla., who came to the U.S. in 2010 and is originally from Uzbekistan. He is in custody at a local hospital after he was shot in the abdomen by an officer, police said.
A law-enforcement official said police found handwritten notes near the truck saying that the suspect carried out the attack in the name of ISIS.
The terror unfolded shortly after 3 p.m. on a picturesque stretch of a popular bike path along the Hudson River and blocks from the World Trade Center. Police said the driver entered the path near the West Side Highway at Houston Street, striking and killing several people as he drove south.
The vehicle then hit a school bus, injuring two children and two adults. The suspect exited his truck and brandished a paintball gun and pellet gun before the officer shot him, police said.
“This was an act of terror,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “A particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”
It was the deadliest terror attack in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. Since then there have been 23 incidents of radical Islamist-motivated attacks that have resulted in 119 fatalities through the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, according to an April report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The number of fatalities caused by domestic violent extremists has ranged from 1 to 49 in a given year, according to the GAO report.
Many of the incidents have involved lone-wolf attackers inspired by Islamic State, allowing the terror group to become an international threat without always directing attacks itself.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there was no evidence that Tuesday’s incident was part of a wider plot. He directed state agencies to increase security at high-profile locations around the state, including subways, bridges and airports, though NYPD officials said there was no information to suggest that there was an ongoing threat.
The city’s fire commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said the deaths and serious injuries were caused by the truck, rather than the paintball or pellet guns. Mr. Nigro said six of the eight people killed in the attack were male and were pronounced dead at the scene, and two more were pronounced dead at a hospital.
As of Tuesday evening, the NYPD had not released the names of any victims. In a tweet, Didier Reynders, the deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister for Belgium, confirmed that one of the victims was from Belgium. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina said in a statement that citizens were among the dead.
Stuyvesant High School and the Borough of Manhattan Community College are among the schools located in the area; most were temporarily locked down until the scene was secured in the early evening, just hours ahead of one of the city’s popular Halloween parades, which attracts thousands to the west side of Manhattan not far from where the incident occurred.
Mr. de Blasio said at the news conference that the city would deploy additional officers Tuesday evening and in the days ahead, including heavy-weapon teams and sand trucks that are used to block vehicles.
“This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Police declined to say how the driver entered New York City. Over the past two years, Mr. O’Neill said, police have made efforts to prevent vehicle attacks such as the ones that occurred in France and Germany. Mr. O’Neill said there are 148 truck-rental locations in the area and the NYPD has done extensive outreach to those businesses to help prevent attacks.
John Miller, deputy commissioner of the NYPD’s counterterrorism and intelligence unit, said in June that there have been about 25 terrorist plots against New York City since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, most of which were thwarted. Common targets included Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge and John F. Kennedy Airport, he said.
The lower Manhattan neighborhood was swarmed with police and trick-or-treaters late in the afternoon. Many children were in costume with their parents. Police blocked off the West Side Highway south of 14th Street and ushered pedestrians away from the scene. Traffic in the area was at a standstill.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene Tuesday afternoon as people struggled to figure out the source and nature of the threat.
Bill Tsapalas, 55, was working from home when he heard “loud pops” just after 3 p.m. Mr. Tsapalas’ apartment overlooks the West Side highway and said when he got to the window he saw people running east along Chambers Street and police running west.
Ezequiel Gonzalez said he was walking west on Chambers Street toward the West Side Highway when he heard several loud noises and other pedestrians urged him to stand back.
The 18-year-old Columbia University freshman said he saw a truck with a large dent and a white sheet in the street he believed was a body bag.
Tawhid Kabir, a 20-year-old student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, said he saw the suspect in the street and heard five or six gunshots.
“He was scared, and he was just running randomly in the street with the two guns,” said Mr. Kabir of the suspect. “When I heard the shot, then I saw him down on the ground.”
Hamid Sefri, 41, who runs Rafiqi’s food cart on Greenwich and Chambers streets, said he thought he heard fireworks but saw people running and realized it was gunshots.
Michael Corbin, assistant real-estate manager for District Council 37 at 125 Barclay Street, a few blocks from the incident, said he was outside on West Street and heard “five shots in quick succession.” He directed a security officer to lock down the building, though some people were leaving at their discretion.
“I wasn’t scared,” he said. “At that point your concern is…your responsibility to the people in your building.”
Stuyvesant High School Principal Eric Contreras said at 4:24 p.m. that his students were sheltering in place until he heard from authorities that it was safe to let them leave. Usually school lets out at 3:30 p.m., though many students stay for hours after that for robotics and other clubs. He said that as far as he knew, no Stuyvesant students or staff had been hurt.
“The kids are safe and calm,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo told New Yorkers to go on living their lives.
“We’re not going to let them win,” he said at the briefing. “Live your life and don’t let them change or deter us in any manner or form.”