Eight people were killed and at least 12 were injured after an Uzbek immigrant, who was "radicalized domestically" and attacked "in the name of ISIS," drove a pickup truck into a bike path along the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, officials said.
The 29-year-old suspect, identified as Sayfullo Saipov, left behind handwritten notes in Arabic that said, “The Islamic State would endure forever,” NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller said at a Wednesday news conference.
He was arraigned Wednesday on federal charges, including one count of providing support to a terror organization, according to a criminal complaint.
Saipov had been planning the attack for "a number of weeks" and appeared to follow ISIS instructions on social media “almost to a T,” the NYPD said.
“In many ways, this was now a classic case of a radicalization of a domestic jihadist who associated with ISIS, and this is their new playbook,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday.
Saipov drove a Home Depot rental truck onto the path near Houston Street around 3 p.m. Tuesday, cops said. He continued south on the bike path, striking multiple people before hitting a school bus near Chambers Street and coming to a stop, according to police.
Witnesses told police Saipov got out of the truck, yelled “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great,” and brandished what later turned out to be a pellet gun and a paintball gun, a law enforcement source said. Both guns were recovered at the scene, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said on Tuesday.
Saipov was shot in the abdomen by NYPD officer Ryan Nash, 28, who is assigned to the First Precinct, and taken into custody. Nash, who was praised as a hero, "stopped the carnage moments after it began," O'Neill said. Saipov was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was reportedly out of surgery Wednesday morning.
Saipov is a native of Uzbekistan who currently lives in Paterson, New Jersey, and has a green card, police said. He came to the United States in 2010, living in Ohio and Florida before moving to Paterson, where he lives with his wife and three children, sources said.
Miller said Saipov rented the truck at 2:06 p.m. Tuesday from a Home Depot in Passaic, New Jersey. He drove over the George Washington Bridge, and at 3:04 p.m. he entered the West Side Highway bicycle path.
“This was an act of terror,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Tuesday. “And a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”
Tawhid Kabir, 20, a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, saw the events in lower Manhattan unfold from a pedestrian bridge on Chambers Street.
“I went up the bridge and saw [the suspect] chasing a man up West Street with two guns in his hands. When I heard the shots, I went down on the ground. There were two girls on the bridge and they started screaming to get down," he said.
Kabir said he stood up and turned around, facing north on West Street and saw two bodies lying on the highway.
“I saw the police put sheets over them,” he added.
Six of the victims – all men – were pronounced dead at the scene and two were pronounced dead at hospitals, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
The victims were later identified by police as 23-year-old Nicholas Cleves, of Manhattan, 32-year-old Darren Drake, of New Jersey, 31-year-old Anne Laure Decadt, of Belgium and five Argentine men, Hernan Diego Mendoza-Espino, Alejandro Damian Pagrucco, Herman Ferruchi, Diego Enrique Angelini and Ariel Erlis, all 47 or 48 years old.
A sixth Argentine citizen was among those hospitalized after the attack, the Argentina consulate said in a statement. Two children and two adults on the school bus suffered serious but non life-threatening injuries, officials said.
The injured were taken to three area hospitals, Nigro said. Nine remained hospitalized on Wednesday, four of whom were in critical but stable condition, he said.
Images from the scene show crumpled bikes strewn along the West Side Highway. The white pickup truck involved in the rampage sustained heavy damage to its front end.
“The dead and injured were just going about their days, heading home from work or from school, or enjoying the afternoon sun on bicycles,” said O’Neill. “This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude for many people, for many families here in New York City and beyond today.”
John Williams, 22, a student at Brooklyn College, said he was walking toward the West Side Highway when he heard shouts of "He has a gun! He has a gun!"
Williams said he heard a succession of about five gun shots, "one after another; it was very fast." When he came upon the truck, he saw its front windshield was smashed and NYPD officers were arresting a man.
"One thing that was noticeable was the smell of gunpowder . . . it filled the air," Williams said.
Shortly before 4 p.m., cops in body armor with semiautomatic weapons ran toward the pedestrian bridge connecting to Stuyvesant High School over the West Side Highway at Chambers Street. There were numerous police, FBI agents and ATF agents at the scene. Women pushing strollers were seen running across West Street from a nearby playground.
BMCC student Giselle Rivera, 20, of the Bronx, was getting out of class just before 3:10 p.m. when she heard gunshots.
“It was like five or six shots,” she said, adding that she saw teenagers running near Stuyvesant High School.
Parents scrambled to pick up their kids, many in Halloween costumes, from nearby schools and daycare centers as investigators in white hazmat suits walk through the scene.
Students at Stuyvesant High School were on lockdown, leaving agitated parents trying to pick up their kids standing outside, wondering what was happening.
Outside PS 234 Independence School on Greenwich Street, relieved parents picked up their children at about 6 p.m. when a school lockdown was lifted.
Rachael Elderfield, 43, said she was walking down Greenwich Street just after 3 p.m. to pick up her 6-year-old son, Hudson, from the school. She was going to take him trick-or-treating, she said, but then she heard the gunshots.
"It sounded like there were about five quick ones. It was so loud. Police cars then rushed down Chambers. They must have been the first lot to arrive and then a massive amount that came after," Elderfield said as she waited outside the school's entrance with a crowd of other parents. Children and teachers were looking down from the second-floor windows.
"My main concern was that [Hudson] was outside. I know he does sports and games after school," she added.
Elderfield headed to the school, but she was told by the principal that it had been placed on lockdown. She said she had to wait nearly three hours before he was released and didn’t have any contact with him during that time.
"It's a fantastic school that has dealt with disasters in the past and they've handled it fantastically," she said. "So I was sure that the children were safe."
Cuomo said New Yorkers can expect to see increased security "everywhere," including at airports, tunnels, bridges and on city transit. "It is just out of vigilance and out of caution."
"The truth is, New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy . . . that also makes us a target for those people who oppose those concepts," Cuomo said. "We go forward together . . . we're not going to let them win."
There is no evidence of any ongoing threat to the city, the governor added.
"I want to ask all New Yorkers to keep the families of those lost in their thoughts and prayers," de Blasio said before urging residents to stay vigilant.
The Village Halloween Parade, which marches up Sixth Avenue from Spring Street every year, went on as scheduled.
"We know this action was intended to break our spirit . . . and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence," de Blasio said. "New Yorkers do not give in in the face of such actions."
O’Neill also said heavy-weapons teams would be deployed citywide. The New York City Marathon, which is scheduled for this Sunday, would go on as planned, officials said.
President Donald Trump was briefed on the situation, the White House said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected," the statement added.
Around 7 p.m., the president tweeted, "My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!"