Witnesses Say Driver In Manhattan Plowed Into People Near Bike Path

Originally published on October 31, 2017 11:12 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

At least eight people are dead and more than 10 others are injured in New York City tonight after what is being investigated as a terrorist attack. At a press conference earlier this evening, Police Commissioner James O'Neill described what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JAMES O'NEILL: 3:05 p.m. - a male driving a rented Home Depot pickup truck entered the West Side Highway bicycle path at Houston Street, began driving southbound, striking a number of pedestrians and bicyclists along the route. At Chambers Street, the truck collided with a school bus, injuring two adults and two children.

KELLY: O'Neill said the driver then got out of the vehicle. A police officer shot him. But he survived. The suspect is now in custody. A paintball gun and pellet gun were recovered from the scene. Reporter Jim O'Grady of member station WNYC joins us now on the line from New York. And, Jim, I know you have been out speaking with witnesses who saw different parts of this attack. What have you been able to piece together about what exactly happened?

JIM O'GRADY, BYLINE: Well, one thing to know is this bike path where the attack occurred is in between two schools. One is a high school, and one is a community college. So I spoke to a community college student who had just finished studying, heard a series of loud and confusing noises and then, moments later, saw high school students fleeing en masse from the scene. He went over a little bit and looked and saw the van that did all the killing crushed after it had hit into a school bus. He then thought to himself after hearing shots, I need to get out of here now.

KELLY: Do we have any more clarity? We've heard over the course of reporting this these last few hours multiple people describing those shots. But the two "weapons" - and I use the word in quotes - that were recovered from the scene we described as a paintball gun and a pellet gun. So do we know whether the suspect was shooting?

O'GRADY: I heard conflicting reports from the witnesses I spoke to. They weren't sure. I didn't find anyone who saw shots being fired. One person I spoke to said it sounded like there might have been two different kinds of shots. All we know for sure is that an officer on the scene responded quickly, discharged his service revolver into the attacker and seriously wounded him.

KELLY: OK. So as always, with events like this, lots of questions still to answer...

O'GRADY: Yeah.

KELLY: ...And much detail still to be learned. We'll continue adding to the story as we get it. Let me ask you about the location where this happened - near the World Trade Center memorial. Might that be meaningful in any way?

O'GRADY: Well, to a lot of New Yorkers, the first thought is, this is right there. This is right in the shadow of the World Trade Center. And it happened in the afternoon of a day with beautiful, blue-sky weather - very similar to 9/11. That whole area has been beautified as part of the recovery effort after 9/11, the idea being to make it a place of life. And it's successful. Some of the people who were killed were on Citi Bikes...

KELLY: Yeah.

O'GRADY: ...Out enjoying the day. And so it might have been the intent of the attacker to choose that place to turn one of the most beautiful spots...

KELLY: OK.

O'GRADY: ...In all of New York City into this place of horror.

KELLY: Reporter Jim O'Grady of member station WNYC, thanks a lot.

O'GRADY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.