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NYPD standoff at Columbus Circle after man tosses fake bomb into cruiser ends, cops say

NYPD Crime Unit investigators collect evidence from a

NYPD Crime Unit investigators collect evidence from a 2008 Chrysler Aspen SUV at Columbus Circle near 8th Avenue, on July 21, 2016. Hector Meneses, 52, the owner of the vehicle was arrested by the police after a standoff that began when he threw a hoax bomb into an NYPD van. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

A man accused of throwing a hoax device into an NYPD vehicle is in custody after a standoff with police at Columbus Circle that lasted several hours early Thursday morning, officials said.

Hector Meneses, 52, was taken into custody around 8 a.m. after he barricaded himself inside an SUV, prompting officers to shut down Columbus Circle and the surrounding area, according to police. 

Police said several roads surrounding Columbus Circle were closed as of 9:45 a.m. and urged motorists to avoid the area.

NYPD officials said when officers tried to communicate with Meneses, he told them he had explosives in the vehicle.

A robot was brought in to evaluate the situation, officials said. Video from the interior of the SUV showed what appeared to be a device, according to police, but the bomb squad determined there was no indication of any explosives present.

Police then decided to move in to extricate Meneses from the vehicle.

Meneses, who is a Colombian national but lives in Elmhurst, Queens, was taken to Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

According to an NYPD spokesman, the incident began around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when someone in a dark-colored SUV threw a suspicious object into a parked NYPD van in Times Square.

Police said the van was sitting at 46th Street and Broadway when the object was thrown. The SUV then took off.

An NYPD sergeant and an officer in the van quickly drove east on 46th Street, away from the heavily populated area of Times Square, police said. When they got to a less crowded area on Sixth Avenue, police said the sergeant and officer removed the object from the vehicle and placed it in the street away from nearby buildings.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton praised the two officers in the van for their quick thinking.

“These two officers are heroes of the NYPD, heroes of New York City,” Bratton said at a Thursday morning news conference.

The bomb squad was called in and investigated the object, giving the all clear at around 12:45 a.m., according to a tweet from NYPD assistant commissioner for communication and public information J. Peter Donald.

Donald also tweeted a photo of the object, which appeared to include tinfoil and a candle, among other items.

Then, around 4:15 a.m., Donald said on Twitter that the NYPD had surrounded a “person & vehicle similar to the one that threw a hoax device at officers earlier” at Columbus Circle. An NYPD spokesman described him as emotionally disturbed and said he would not communicate with officers.

As a result of the incident, the 1, A, B, C and D trains were bypassing the 59th Street-Columbus Circle stop in both directions for several hours but have since resumed normal service with delays, the MTA said.

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