Truck attack in Manhattan being investigated as terrorism, sources say

The driver of a rental truck drove down a busy bicycle path in New York near the World Trade Center, killing eight people and injuring about a dozen others in what officials said was an “act of terror.”

After crashing the truck into a school bus, the suspect exited the vehicle while displaying imitation firearms and was shot in the abdomen by police, according to the NYPD.

The suspect, a 29-year-old man, is in police custody and was taken to a hospital for treatment, officials said.

The incident is being investigated as terrorism, officials said. Witnesses reported the suspect was yelling “Allahu Akbar,” according to four law enforcement sources. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is taking over the lead of the investigation.

The statements made by the driver moments after leaving the truck and the method of the attack were consistent with other terrorist attacks, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said. Vehicles have been used as weapons in a number of terrorist attacks in recent years, including in deadly incidents in Nice, France, and London.

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.”

The suspect, driving in a Home Depot rental truck, hopped a curb at West Houston Street and drove south on the bike path on the west side of West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan for several blocks, officials said. A pellet gun and a paintball gun were recovered from the scene, officials said.

Just after the incident, news footage showed several mangled bicycles on the popular bike path as medics tended to the wounded in the background.

Six people were declared dead at the scene and two were pronounced dead at the hospital. 11 others were transported to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

No other suspects are being sought, the NYPD said.

A spokesman for Home Depot confirmed one of the company’s rental trucks was part of an incident in lower Manhattan and said the company is “cooperating with authorities” in the investigation.

President Donald Trump tweeted that the incident “looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person.”

Witness accounts

News footage showed crowds of spectators — some capturing the scene with cellphone cameras — gathered behind police lines. A white Home Depot truck with the front end smashed was also visible.

Eugene Duffy said he had just left work at Pier 26 and was waiting on the light to cross West Street when he heard a scream. He thought it might have been a Halloween prank but he said the scream was bloodcurdling.

“I look down and I see a white pickup truck a couple of more blocks down in the bike path,” he said. “Automatically, I know something’s wrong. Then, as I go down more toward where the girl is screaming, I see two gentlemen laying there and they have tire tracks marked across their bodies. You could tell they both weren’t here.”

He continued to walk closer to the scene. Gunshots rang out. He saw cops ducking for cover. A yellow school bus was smashed nearby. Cops descended on the area.

“I thought automatically, this area, I thought it was terrorism,” he said.

Michael Corbin, the assistant real estate manager for District Council 37, the city’s largest public employees union, was standing outside the union’s lower Manhattan offices attending to a woman who slipped and fell on the sidewalk.

“The first responder to the event was a counterterrorism officer,” he said. “We were attending to the victim, getting her onto a stretcher and, at that moment, we heard gunshots. I recalled hearing five gunshots in quick succession and immediately the officer … left to investigate the situation from the direction we heard the noise coming from.”

Another witness, Ramon Cruz, described what he saw.

“What I saw was that the driver — he didn’t look like he was bleeding,” said Cruz. “He was dragging his foot. He looks frustrated, panicked, confused. People are running past me, saying, ‘He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.’ I didn’t see any gun.

“It was a white pickup truck. He looked pretty bad without bleeding or anything like that. I didn’t see him hit anybody. All I heard was the impact of a crash.”

Tuesday afternoon on Twitter, a user posted an image of a person lying on the ground near the scene of an incident near West & Chambers Streets in Manhattan.

By Eric Levenson, Brynn Gingras and Ray Sanchez, CNN