This story was reported by Stefanie Dazio, Rachelle Blidner and Nicole Fuller. It was written by Fuller.
In the Paterson, New Jersey, community where suspected Manhattan terrorist Sayfullo Saipov lived, neighbors’ descriptions of the married father of three belied the actions of a man authorities said was bent on killing innocents.
Saipov seemed a regular guy, said Carlos Batista, who lives two doors down from where the 29-year-old lived with his wife and children. Saipov was quick with a friendly wave, Batista said. Another neighbor said Saipov could often be seen bringing one of his daughters to her kindergarten class.
“He was a nice guy. He’d say ‘hey’ and wave when he drove past,” Batista said.
But in the past year, authorities said Wednesday, another side of Saipov, seemingly unknown to his neighbors, was emerging.
He was plotting a terrorist attack “in the name of ISIS,” authorities said, and carried it out Tuesday by driving a rented pickup truck into Manhattan and mowing down pedestrians and bicyclists on a bike path on the West Side. He killed eight and injured 12, officials said, nine of whom remained hospitalized Wednesday, four in critical condition.
Saipov was shot by NYPD Officer Ryan Nash, also 29, — a Medford resident and five-year veteran. Saipov, interviewed at Bellevue Hospital, told investigators he was pleased to have committed the terrorist act, authorities said.
Wednesday night, federal authorities said they had charged Saipov with provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization and violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.
Earlier, FBI agents with K-9’s swarmed the squat, brick building where Saipov lived in a working-class section of Paterson with a large population of immigrants from the Middle East and Spanish-speaking countries.
Agents were seen leaving Saipov’s home — apartment No. 9 — with a large black bag and white boxes.
NYPD and FBI officials said Wednesday they had executed a number of search warrants in connection with the investigation, but would not provide specifics.
NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller said Saipov “appears to have followed almost exactly to a T” instructions on how to carry out such an attack that ISIS has put on social media. Some neighbors said in the two weeks before the Tuesday attacks, they had seen Saipov driving a similar truck to the one police said he drove on the Manhattan bike path.
Near the rented Home Depot truck, police said Wednesday, they found notes handwritten in Arabic. They also found multiple knives and a pellet and paintball gun.
One of the notes said “Islamic supplication, it will endure,” according to federal officials at a news conference Wednesday night.
Worshippers at Paterson’s Omar Mosque, around the corner from Saipov’s apartment, said they didn’t know Saipov and stressed Islam is a peaceful religion.
“Nobody’s ever seen this guy,” said Ramy Elhelw, 30, of Hoboken, who described the mosque community as tight-knit. “Nobody knows him.”
Saipov, a permanent resident in the United States, entered the country legally in March 2010 from his native Uzbekistan, authorities.
Living for a time in Ohio, Saipov then moved to Florida before moving to New Jersey, according to media reports. He married Nozima Odilova, who was 19, in 2013, according to news reports. At the time he worked as a truck driver.
Recently, Saipov drove for Uber, company officials said Wednesday night.
Police would not say Wednesday if they had interviewed Odilova.
Records show he set up two businesses with Ohio addresses in 2011 and 2013, though it’s unclear if he was living in the state at the time.
Waleska Claudio, who lives near Saipov, said she didn’t know him, but was shaken that her neighbor was implicated in a deadly terror plot.
“I get nervous because you don’t know; it’s unfortunate you live somewhere and you don’t know who surrounds you,” said Claudio, 46. “It’s a scary, scary thought.”