BY COLIN MIXSON AND REBECCA WHITE | A terrorist killed eight people and injured 12 others with a pickup truck he drove onto the Hudson River bike path bordering West St. in Lower Manhattan Tuesday, in the deadliest act of terror to rock the city since 9/11.
“This was…a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives, who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference shortly after the incident.
Sayfullo Saipov was behind the wheel of the truck he rented from Home Depot when he entered the bike path at W. Houston St. outside Pier 40 at 3:05 p.m. He accelerated to high speeds heading south, crushing cyclists and pedestrians along the way, according to Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
A chilling scene of bodies, bikes and car parts littered the bike path in the suspect’s wake. Good samaritans who witnessed the carnage rushed to lend assistance, according to one witness.
“I see a huge pile of completely trashed bicycles covered in what looked like parts of cars,” said Greg Ahl, a Brooklyn resident. “There was nobody standing up. Nobody was moving.”
His rampage continued more than 15 blocks down to Chambers St., where Saipov collided with a school bus, injuring two adults and two children.
The man sprang from the truck wielding two pistols, a pellet gun and a paintball gun, yelling “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great!). He stalked among cars on West St. before sprinting toward a group of nearby children, according Thibeaud Roy, a 15-year-old Stuyvesant High School student, who ran for cover when he spotted the weapons.
“I was leaving Stuyvesant,” Roy said. “I was going to the bridge on the right that goes over West St. I was with a group of friends and I heard a commotion. I thought maybe someone had just crashed their car. I went down the steps a bit and I saw it was a white pickup truck, and the front end was all busted and there was smoke coming out.
“And then I didn’t know what was happening and then the guy opened the door and he came out with two pistols in his hands, one was golden and the other was silver. There was a large group of kids that were gathered nearby and he started running toward them and then I saw him sprint and then I just sprinted back into the building and that’s all I saw from there. I was just scared for the kids at first. I just saw him run at them with his pistols in hand.
“I went back to the windows and I saw the bodies of the people he ran over,” Roy said. “We saw two people, the Citi Bikes all messed up. We realized they were dead.”
The attack was ended by First Precinct Police Officer Ryan Nash, 28, who wounded Saipov with a gunshot to the abdomen. According to the Daily News, Nash happened to be nearby at Stuyvesant High School, where he had responded to a report of a 17-year-old student who was suicidal. Saipov was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment and interrogation, according to police.
Of the 20 victims, six were found dead at the scene by paramedics, who rushed 14 others to three area hospitals for treatment, where another two victims perished, according to Daniel Nigro, the Fire Department commissioner.
Three victims have been released from the hospital, and four suffered critical injuries, but are in stable condition. The remaining five victims were seriously injured, with wounds including major head, neck, back and chest trauma, in addition to one victim who required multiple amputations, Nigro said.
Saipov, a permanent legal resident, emigrated from Uzbekistan to the United States in 2010, where he found work as an Uber driver.
Investigators searching Saipov’s home found notes indicating he carried out the attack in the name of ISIS, following months of planning. His attack closely mirrored strategies published on social media by the terrorist organization, according to John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the New York Police Department.
The attack is not considered part of a wider terrorist plot, however, and the suspect is thought to have acted as a lone-wolf killer, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“There’s no evidence to suggest a wider plot, or wider scheme,” Cuomo said at the press conference following the attack.
The incident drew a massive emergency response, and West St. from 14th St. down to the Battery Tunnel was expected to remain closed in both directions until Wednesday evening to accommodate the ongoing investigation, according to police.
New Yorkers were also told to expect an increased police presence in various forms — including plainclothes officers, heavy-weapons teams and rooftop snipers — throughout the five boroughs and within the transit system, as security remains on high alert following the attack.
The New York City Marathon, which is expected to draw some 50,000 runners, will go on as planned on Sunday, although athletes and spectators should expect a high security presence, police said.
In multiple press briefings held since the attack, both de Blasio and Cuomo urged New Yorkers to carry on without fear, in defiance of Saipov’s ultimate goal to spread terror with his attack.
“To New Yorkers, be New Yorkers, and live your lives, and don’t let them change us or deter us in any manner, shape or form,” Cuomo said.
On Tuesday night, hours after the attack, more than 1 million costumed New Yorkers turned out for the 44th Annual Village Halloween Parade.