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NYPD: $40,000 reward offered in unsolved Central Park explosion case

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce and other

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce and other law enforcement officials on Wednesday, June 29, 2017, at the site of a July, 2016 explosion in Central Park that badly wounded a Virginia college student. Photo Credit: Theodore Parisienne

The NYPD and federal law enforcement on Wednesday announced a $40,000 reward for information on an explosion a year ago in Central Park that resulted in the amputation of a Virginia college student’s lower leg — a crime that police said does not appear to be terrorism-related.

“We don’t believe this is a terrorist act,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said during a news briefing Wednesday at the site of the explosion last July 3 that wounded Connor Golden. “There’s nothing to suggest that right now.”

Investigators have been stymied by a lack of tips — just 20 in total received — since Golden, 18, at the time and visiting from Fairfax, Virginia, stepped on a plastic bag in Central Park, igniting the explosion. Golden had been slacklining with friends on a rock formation in the park near 60th Street and Fifth Avenue when he jumped off the rock and landed on the bag, police said.

Police are still searching for a working motive but investigators believe the suspect has a chemistry background, Boyce said.

“Right now we’re still missing a lot of answers, we need a lot of information,” he said.

The type of compound has been used in previous terrorist attacks — including at a Paris concert hall in 2015 where 137 died and the 2005 London bombings that killed 54, said John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for counterterrorism and intelligence. But other signs that would have linked the explosion to terrorism were absent, Miller said.

“If you look at the totality of the circumstances, it was not formed into an improvised explosive device, in that there was not a timer, shrapnel and other things,” Miller said, “and it was left 50 feet from the main road on one of the most crowded weekends in Central Park, which if you go by the indicators, does not really comport with training, procedures or tactics of a terrorist group as to where they might experiment with a mixture like that.”

Officials said Wednesday they had increased the reward to $40,000 — up from the initial $10,000 — for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. The NYPD also asked that anyone in Central Park in the days and weeks before the explosion and may have taken photos or videos, contact the department or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is assisting in the investigation.

Ashan M. Benedict, ATF special agent in charge, said photos and video could help in “narrowing the timeline for when the explosive material was placed there” as well as identifying potential suspects.

“The victim suffered life-altering, traumatic injuries as a result of this explosion . . . the explosive material was indiscriminate,” Benedict said.“We all have a common goal to keep our parks and public safe for all visitors and New Yorkers alike. We need the public’s help to ensure safety and ensure justice for the victim and his family.”

Golden, an avid outdoorsman and an Eagle Scout majoring in music engineering, has learned to walk again on a prosthetic and has a “super positive, forward-looking attitude,” said his father, Kevin Golden, 53, of Fairfax, Virginia.

The family is pleased the reward was increased and hope it leads to an arrest, Kevin Golden said, but disagrees with the NYPD’s characterization of the crime.

“I’m not sure of what definition of terrorism they’re using . . . it did create terror,” Kevin Golden said. “Connor was there in the park for a half hour waiting for an ambulance. There was terror. There was a bomb.”

Anyone with information, photos or videos relating to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS [8477] or, for Spanish, 888-57-PISTA [74782]. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting tips to 274637 [CRIMES] and then entering TIP577.

The public also may submit tips to the ATF at 888-ATF-TIPS [283-8477] or by email at ATFTips@atf.gov. All tips will be kept confidential.

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