Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill: Good afternoon everybody. Steve, are we good? Alright. Just keep in mind that this incident occurred a little more than two hours ago so all the information that we are giving you right now is preliminary and subject to change.
After I speak you are going to hear from Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, Bill Sweeney from the Assistant Director in charge of the New York FBI offices standing up here with me too, we have members [inaudible] of my executive staff. We have Cy Vance and members of the state police.
First, I just want to say that today there was a loss of innocent life in Lower Manhattan. The dead and injured were just going about their days, heading home from work or from school, or enjoying the afternoon sun on bicycles. This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude for many people, for many families here in New York City and beyond today.
I want to commend the response of our NYPD officer that was on post near the location who stopped the carnage moments after it began. And also work, the work of the first responders, including the Fire Department and the EMS personal surely helped save additional lives.
As I said I will give more of a chronology in a couple of minutes, but right now I would like to introduce Mayor de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you Commissioner. It’s a very a painful day in our city – horrible tragedy on the West side. Let me be that clear based on the information we have at this moment, this was act of terror. And a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.
We at this moment, based on the information we have, we know of eight innocent people who have lost their lives and over a dozen more injured. We know that this action was intended to break our spirit but we also know New Yorkers are strong, New Yorkers are resilient. And our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence, an act meant to immediate us.
We have been tested before as a city very near the site of today’s tragedy. And New Yorkers did not give in in the face of these kinds of actions. We will respond as we always do. We will be undeterred. And I want to thank everyone at the NYPD, all our first responders for their extraordinary efforts in the midst of this tragedy, starting with the officer who stopped this tragedy from continuing – all the first responders who came to the aid of those who were injured.
An investigation is under way to get all the facts and what we will tell you today will of course be preliminary. But we know we will get down to the bottom of what happened. I want to ask all New Yorkers, all Americans to keep the families of those lost in your thoughts and prayers. They will need our support.
And I want to ask all New Yorkers to be vigilant. We know it’s Halloween night. And we know in the days ahead people will be uneasy. We ask all New Yorkers to live by the idea – if you see something, say something – tell an officer immediately if you see anything unusual, anything that worries you. Be vigilant and know that there will be extensive additional employments of NYPD officers this evening and throughout the days ahead.
We will also keep you posted as this investigation continues and as the NYPD gains more information. Governor Cuomo.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: Thank you. First, our thoughts and prayers with those New Yorkers who we lost today – it reminds us all how precious life is. They left the house this morning – they were enjoying the beautiful Westside of Manhattan on a beautiful fall day and they are not going to be returning home. And that shock and that pain is going to be very real. And our thoughts [inaudible] our prayers are with all of them.
Our first responders did an extraordinary job. The NYPD, the FDNY, the FBI, the New York State Police, EMS – they, we have the finest security on the globe and to see them in action today proved that once again.
The new terrorist tactic which they have called for publicly, are these lone wolves who commit an act of terror. This is all very preliminary – it’s only been a couple of hours. But at this point, there’s no evidence to suggest a wider plot or a wider scheme, but the actions of one individual who meant to cause pain and harm and probably death, and the resulting terror, and that was the purpose.
We will be vigilant – more police everywhere, you’ll see them in the airports, you’ll see them in the tunnels. It’s not because there’s any evidence of any ongoing threat or any additional threat, it is just out of vigilance and out of caution. And the truth is, New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy – that’s what we are – and we are proud of it. That also makes us a target for those people who oppose those concepts, and we’ve lived with this before, we’ve felt the pain before, we feel the pain today, but we go forward together and we go forward stronger than ever.
We’re not going to let them win, and if we change our lives, we contort ourselves to them, then they win and we lose. We’ll go about our business – again, there’s no ongoing threat, there’s not evidence of that at this time. So, there’s no reason to have any undue anxiety. You will see more security forces, but that’s only because it’s an abundance of caution and not a signal of anything else. And there will be continued investigation and justice will be done. But again, to those we lost – they’re in our thoughts and our prayers.
To the first responders, thank you, thank you, thank you for the job you do. You put your life one the line every day. You do it better than anyone else. And to New Yorkers – be New Yorkers and live your life and don’t let them change us or deter us in any manner, shape, or form.
Commissioner O’Neill: Thanks, Governor Cuomo. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. As I said, I’m going to go through the chronology here. And I know when I’m done, you’re going to have a lot of questions, but we’re not going to go too deep into it, it’s only two hours. And after I get done with the chronology, Dan Nigro is going to talk about the injuries.
It’s about 3:05 pm, a male driving a rented Home Depot pickup truck entered the West Side Highway bicycle path at Houston Street, began driving southbound, striking a number of pedestrians and bicyclists along the route. At Chambers Street, the truck collided with a school bus, injuring two adults and two children. After the collision, the driver of the truck – a 29-year-old male – exited the vehicle, brandishing two handguns. The uniformed police officer assigned to the 1st Precinct, confronted the subject and shot him in the abdomen. The subject was wounded and transported to a local hospital. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were recovered at the scene. The subject’s identity is not being released at this time pending further investigation. At this point, there are eight fatalities reported in connection with this incident. In addition, several people have been injured and Commissioner Nigro from our Fire Department will discuss that.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Thank you, Jim. As the Police Commissioner said, six people died – they were pronounced at the scene between Houston Street and Chambers Street. They were all males. Two others were transported in traumatic arrest and were pronounced at the hospital. We also transported 11 people, all with serious but, at this moment, not life-threatening injuries. The injuries are what you may expect as a truck went at high speed down that bicycle path and struck bicyclists and pedestrians. There may be more injuries as people self-evacuated and we will determine that later as we do our survey. But that’s the patient count and the deaths as we know it now.
Commissioner O’Neill: Alright, at this point, we’re going to take some questions.
Myles, hold on – Myles –
Commissioner O’Neill: John, you want to talk about the program a little bit?
Deputy Commissioner John Miller, Intelligence and Counter-terrorism, NYPD: So, as you know, through the SHIELD program, we do a very wide outreach. We have just under 20,000 members in the private sector. After ISIS, [inaudible] magazine came out with the issue just about two years ago around this time of year suggesting car attacks. You’ll recall, one of the targets they suggest was the Thanksgiving Day Parade. We went and did extensive outreach to the truck rental business. We visited over 148 truck rental locations in this area. The obvious ones – U-Haul, Ryder, Home Depot, etcetera, and talked about suspicious indicators, ways to come forward. After attacks on the German Christmas market, after Nice, we repeated those visits two more times either by making telephonic contact, email, or going back to the same places. So, the industry has had a high level of awareness on this matter from the NYPD.
Commissioner O’Neill: It’s way too early to discuss that. I mean, this just happened two hours ago and it’s of course part of our investigation.
Commissioner O’Neill: Initially, we thought it might have been but it turned out not to be. Yeah?
Commissioner O’Neill: It’s all part of the investigation.
Commissioner O’Neill: No, this incident is over. It did end right by Stuyvesant High School, so we had to make sure all the kids were taken care of, and we held them in place for a while, and it was important we do that, but this incident is over.
Commissioner O’Neill: He’s a 29-year-old male and I’m not going to talk about the truck right now.
Question: [Inaudible] the suspect said [inaudible] anything to that effect. Is that the only indication that this may be an act of terrorism, or do you have – what else [inaudible]
Commissioner O’Neill: Yeah, he did make a statement when he exited the vehicle. And if you just look at the M-O of the attack – that’s consistent with what’s been going on. So, that, along with the statement that’s enabled us to label this a terrorist event.
Commissioner O’Neill: No, not right now.
Question: [Inaudible] nationality and was there any intelligence leading up to this [inaudible]
Commissioner O’Neill: Again, two hours old, and we’ll update you as we go along.
Commissioner O’Neill: It’s being conducted jointly with the NYPD and the FBI.
Commissioner O’Neill: From Florida? I’m not going to go into that.
Commissioner O’Neill: Not – John – not right now, no.
Commissioner O’Neill: After the Times Square incident I talked about this. Any incident that happens in New York or happens in the country or happens around the world, we have to learn from that, so of course we’re going to take a look at that.
Commissioner O’Neill: Yes, he’s in the hospital. I’m not going to tell you what hospital.
And I’m going to let Chief Gomez talk about what we’re doing for the Halloween parade tonight.
Chief of Department Carlos Gomez, NYPD: In less than 90 minutes that parade will kick off. We will proceed with the parade and certainly we’ve added more resources, more police officers, heavy weapons teams, blocker vehicles on the street leading to the route as well as more sand truck. There’s also heavy weapons teams being deployed throughout the city at key, iconic locations.
Commissioner O’Neill: Well, this is why we do investigation. Initially, I’m sure, whoever put that out isn’t sure what the event was, and now two hours into it this is the determination that we’ve made.
Yes, in the first row?
Commissioner O’Neill: Too early in the investigation to know that.
Commissioner O’Neill: I haven’t looked at the video let. We’re retrieving as much video as possible. What we do know is he entered the bike path at Houston Street and exited the bike path at Chambers Street when he collided with the school bus. And there are no intersection on the west side of the bike path between Houston and Chambers.
In the – hold on, one second – in the back there?
Commissioner O’Neill: Dan, do you have that?
There are among the injured that are serious but not life threatening.
Commissioner O’Neill: We’re not going to talk about where the Home Depot was rented from just yet, and Bob, do we know how many people were on the bus?
There were two adults and two children on the school us.
In the back, Lisa?
Commissioner O’Neill: Don’t know. That’s part of the investigation.
Commissioner O’Neill: No, we don’t have that yet.
Mayor: I’ll just close this off here by saying look, the NYPD is investigating this with our federal partners, with our State partners. There’s going to be a very, very thorough investigation, but the most important thing – as Governor Cuomo said, as Chief O’Neill said – people should go about their business knowing the NYPD is out in force with our partner agencies tonight and throughout the week. Very important additional measures are going to be taken for people’s safety, but the bottom line is we are going to go about our business in the city, and we are not going to be deterred. And we’ll get you updates later on in the evening.