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Sensors, scanners shed light on terror attack suspect’s movements

Investigators inspect a truck after it was driven

Investigators inspect a truck after it was driven down a bike path next to the Hudson River in lower Manhattan, striking multiple people, on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Don Emmert

In the days before Tuesday’s deadly terror attack in Manhattan, police believe suspect Sayfullo Saipov made at least four trips to Manhattan to scout out locations and practice driving before he settled on the west side bike path as a target.

Police discovered details of Saipov’s reconnaissance from an analysis of license plate readers, the ubiquitous array of sensors and photographic scanners posted throughout the city that give cops near-instant access to the movements of any vehicle. While police won’t disclose how many scanners they have in use, they are believed to number in the hundreds, with some in police cars.

The same sensor technology told investigators when Saipov crossed into Manhattan from New Jersey on the day of the attack, and NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller said more license plate reader data would be examined to further trace Saipov’s movements before the attack. That analysis, Miller said, might lead to other associates of the suspect. Here’s a look at what happened leading up to and during the attack, according to authorities.

  • Saipov rents a pickup truck from a Home Depot in Passaic, New Jersey, at 2:06 p.m.
  • After crossing the George Washington Bridge, he exits into New York City at 2:43 p.m. and proceeds onto the West Side Highway, traveling southbound.
  • A Port Authority camera on top of an air vent outside the Holland Tunnel shows the vehicle entering the bike and pedestrian path at a high rate of speed southbound at West and Houston streets at 3:04 p.m.
  • Saipov appears to target pedestrians and bike riders in the lane for several blocks, ultimately killing eight people.
  • The truck collides with a school bus near Chambers Street, injuring additional people.
  • Saipov exits the truck, brandishing a pellet gun and a paint ball gun.
  • After exiting, he shouts “Allahu akbar,” which in Arabic means “God is great,” according to the criminal complaint.
  • NYPD receives more than a dozen 911 calls reporting people down, the school bus accident and a man with a gun in the street at 3:08 p.m.
  • NYPD Officer Ryan Nash, of Medford, shoots the suspect in the abdomen, ending the attack.
  • Saipov is taken into custody and brought to Bellevue Hospital.

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