The pickup driver accused of fatally mowing down people on a Manhattan bike path last month has been charged in a 22-count indictment that accuses him of murder and providing key support to the terrorist group ISIS, federal officials said.
If convicted, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, of New Jersey, faces life in prison or the death penalty on eight counts of murder in aid of racketeering and 12 counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering — charges often lodged against organized crime and gang members. ISIS is considered a criminal enterprise steeped in killings, kidnappings, suicide bombings and other intimidation, according to court papers released Tuesday.
The alleged killer wanted to display the ISIS flag in the front and back of the rented Home Depot truck during the attack but decided against it because he did not want to draw attention to himself, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, which has the case.
In the allegation of providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS, Saipov knew the foreign group’s members are terrorists but still “provided services and personnel” — namely himself — when he barreled down a mile-long stretch of the West Side Highway path before hitting a school bus van on Oct. 31, the indictment said. He also was indicted on one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.
Saipov’s attorney could not be reached Tuesday night.
The driver had entered the bicycle and pedestrian path near Houston and West streets, killing eight and injuring 12 people in a rampage that forced nearby schools to go on lockdown just as students were leaving for the day.
After Saipov ditched the pickup, he allegedly waved around what was later determined to be a paintball gun and a pellet gun when he was shot by an NYPD officer.
“Sayfullo Saipov murdered eight innocent people and injured many more in a calculated act of terrorism in the heart of one of our great cities,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “People have a right to safety walking down a sidewalk or riding a bike, and we will not change our resolve to confront these threats both at home and abroad. “
Prosecutors said they intend to seize assets of Saipov, a legal, permanent resident who arrived in 2010 from Uzbekistan.
In court papers, federal officials accused Saipov of “substantial planning and premeditation,” but the information released was largely known.
Saipov had waived his Miranda rights after his capture, authorities said, and he revealed plans to continue driving on to the Brooklyn Bridge, another soft target, so he could maximize deaths, the same reason he chose Halloween, a day when many people would be on the streets.
About 10 feet from his truck, investigators found a document with Arabic text saying, “It will endure,” commonly used to refer to ISIS, meaning the group will last forever, federal officials said. They also found a stun gun and three knives, officials said.
But key in the investigation, prosecutors said, were cellphones in the truck because they contained scores of ISIS images and propaganda that inspired him to start planning his attack a year in advance, choosing the truck as his weapon after watching ISIS videos on his cellphone.