This story was reported by Anthony M. DeStefano, Laura Figueroa Hernandez, Matthew Chayes, Stefanie Dazio, Rachelle Blidner, Robert E. Kessler, Mark Morales, Pervaiz Shallwani, Nicole Fuller, Zachary R. Dowdy and John Riley. It was written by Bart Jones.
A driver “consumed by hate” picked Halloween for his terrorist attack on a waterfront bicycle path in lower Manhattan to “kill as many people as he could” and was proud of what he did, according to officials and a criminal complaint released Wednesday.
Sayfullo Saipov, a legal permanent resident of the United States who came from Uzbekistan in 2010, meticulously planned his attack during the last year, officials said. He also made test runs for his deadly rampage which, authorities said, was inspired by ISIS.
“He killed eight innocent human beings and injured at least a dozen others,” Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. Attorney of the Southern District, said at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday.
“We have developed evidence establishing that Saipov carried out this attack” in the name of ISIS.
He called Saipov a man “consumed by hate and a twisted ideology” who had talked in detail to authorities at Bellevue Hospital after being shot following the assault.
He asked authorities whether he could display an ISIS flag in his room — saying he “felt good” about what he had done — and said he had contemplated putting an ISIS flag on the truck used in the attack, the complaint said.
A search of his cell phones showed Saipov had 90 videos of ISIS executions as well as 3,800 images of ISIS propaganda, prosecutors said. He admitted to authorities he was “inspired to commit the act by the ISIS videos that he watched,” Kim said.
Investigators found notes, handwritten in Arabic, that Saipov left behind and “the gist” of them was that “the Islamic State would endure forever,” NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller said earlier Wednesday.
He appeared to follow ISIS instructions put out on social media “almost to a T,” Miller said. Authorities said he shouted “Allahu akbar,” during the attack, which in Arabic means “God is great.”
Saipov had studied the effectiveness of trucks as killing machines and had hoped to continue running down people on the bike path until he reached the Brooklyn Bridge, authorities said in the complaint.
Instead he left the path at Chambers Street where he was stopped after he got out of the truck and was shot by NYPD officer Ryan Nash, 28, of Medford.
“He was ultimately stopped by a brave police officer...who confronted him and shot him in the abdomen,” said Kim.
Five of the people killed were natives of Argentina who were part of a group of friends in New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. A Belgium woman also was killed, along with Darren Drake, 33, of New Jersey, and Nicholas Cleves, 23, of Manhattan.
Jimmy Drake, father of Darren Drake, said his son worked as a program manager at Moody’s in the World Trade Center and was taking a Citi Bike ride when he was killed.
“When I went to the morgue and I saw his face, I didn’t see a man, 33. I saw a kid being born. And all of the black and blues and the scabs and everything,” he said. “Seeing that picture, I couldn’t deal with it.”
Wednesday night, religious leaders from around the city gathered at Foley Square for an Interfaith Vigil for Peace as a show of unity in the wake of the terror attack.
About 100 people held small lights and signs that read “Pray for NYC,” “Faiths for Peace,” and “Religions Against Violence.”
Wednesday, Saipov was being held without bail on charges of provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization and violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.
His attorney, David Patton, who heads the federal public defender program in Manhattan, said his client was “in a significant amount of pain” and asked Magistrate Barbara Moses to order “pain management” while Saipov is in custody. Moses said she would suggest it to prison authorities.
He wore an earpiece and was accompanied by a Russian interpreter but answered “Yes, M’am” when the judge asked him if he was able to understand the translator.
Later outside of court Patton made a pitch for fair treatment, asking the public to allow “the judicial process [to] play out. Its especially important in a case like this. I promise you that how we treat Mr. Saipov in this judicial process will say a lot more about us that it will say about him.”
FBI Special Agent Amber Tyres said Saipov had rented the truck in Passaic, New Jersey about an hour before the 3 p.m. incident near Houston and West Street and had planned to “proceed to the Brooklyn Bridge to continue to strike pedestrians.”
He had even wanted to “display ISIS flags in the front and back of the truck” but decided against it because he didn’t want to attract attention to himself, the complaint said.
Tyres said Saipov had two cell phones, three knives, a wallet and a document with ISIS-related writing on it.
A law enforcement source said Saipov came to Manhattan four times before the attack in what were believed to be reconnaissance missions.
Law enforcement officials on Wednesday afternoon issued and then cancelled an alert for a “person of interest” who was wanted “in connection” with the attack. The alert identified the man they want to speak with as Mukhammadzoir Kadirov. It was issued under the banner “Seeking Information.”
At a news conference late Wednesday afternoon, FBI authorities said they were no longer seeking Kadirov. “We have found him,” said William F. Sweeney, assistant director of the FBI’s New York office. He declined to comment further on Kadirov’s status.
Outside of the gated Tampa apartment complex where Kadirov once lived, neighbors described him as a “quiet” father of two toddler boys.
Tareika Giles, Kadirov’s next door neighbor said he lived in the apartment for about a year before moving out sometime between late last year or early this year.
Giles said Kadirov lived in the second floor apartment unit next to her with his wife, who she said spoke little English, and their two sons, who often played just outside of the building.
“He was very nice, he would always say hi to me,” Giles said.
According to copies of bulletins issued Wednesday by the Real Time Crime Center in Newark, a program initiated among police agencies in New Jersey to share information, Kadirov was known to have ties to the “Passaic/Bergen County areas” in New Jersey. Saipov had most recently been living in Paterson.
It was the deadliest terrorist event in New York City since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center — just blocks away from Tuesday’s attack.
Kim said terrorists were attracted to New York as a high-profile target, but he warned: “Alleged terrorists like Saipov . . . They will find justice . . . They will find and have found that law enforcement and citizens are not afraid.”
Miller said that Saipov rented the truck at 2:06 p.m. Tuesday from a Home Depot in Passaic, New Jersey.
He drove over the George Washington Bridge, and at 3:04 p.m. entered the West Side Highway bicycle path at Houston Street, mowing down bicyclists and pedestrians on the waterfront pathway until he left at Chambers Street, officials said.
He collided with a school bus near Stuyvesant High School, injuring two adults and two children inside, and emerged from the vehicle holding what appeared to be two firearms — later recovered and determined to be a paintball gun and a pellet gun, officials said. Multiple knives also were found in and around the truck, police said.
He was stopped in the rampage when he was shot. Nash, in a statement, said he appreciated the public recognition for his work in stopping Saipov but added: “I feel we were just doing our job.” He said that he understood the “importance of yesterday’s events” and thanked his family and friends, saying he would not make further statements due to the investigation.