NEW YORK (AP) — A man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and bicyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial Tuesday, killing at least eight and injuring 11 others in what the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror.”
The 29-year-old driver was shot in the abdomen by police and taken into custody after jumping out of the truck with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” officials said. His condition was not immediately released.
Witnesses described a scene of panic and blood, with people screaming in fear and the path strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered over with tarps.
The attack closed streets across the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River and sent officers rushing to the neighborhood as people prepared for Halloween festivities, including the annual parade through Greenwich Village.
The driver’s identity was not immediately released.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said witnesses told police the attacker yelled, “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great” in Arabic — as he got out of the truck.
Asked about that at a news conference, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill replied: “Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle.” He said the statement and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.
On Twitter, President Donald Trump called it “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” and declared, “NOT IN THE U.S.A.”
Cities around the globe have been on alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. The Islamic State has been encouraging its followers to mow down people, and England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks in recent months and years.
Police said the vehicle, a rented Home Depot truck, entered the bike path at about 3 p.m. on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Center — the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history — and mowed down several people. The truck then turned at Chambers Street near the trade center site, striking a small yellow school bus and injuring two adults and two children.
In addition to those killed, 11 people were seriously injured, police said.
A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said.
“This was an 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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
At least two bodies could be seen lying on the path beneath tarps, and the front end of the pickup was smashed in.
Tom Gay, a school photographer, was on Warren Street and heard people saying there was an accident. He went down to West Street and a woman came around the corner shouting, “He has a gun! He has a gun!”
Gay said he stuck his head around the corner and saw a slender man in a blue track suit running southbound on West Street holding a gun. He said there was a heavyset man pursuing him.
He said he heard five or six shots and the man in the tracksuit fell to the ground, gun still raised in the air. He said a man came over and kicked the gun out of his hand.
Eugene Duffy, 43, a chef at a waterfront restaurant, said he was crossing West Street when he heard something, turned back and saw the white pickup on the bike path.
After seeing the mangled bikes, he ran south, seeing the school bus that appeared to have been T-boned, and officers at the scene, guns drawn, ducked behind patrol cars.
“So many police came and they didn’t know what was happening,” Duffy said. “People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs.”
Uber driver Chen Yi said he saw a truck plow into people on a popular bike path adjacent to the West Side Highway. He said he then heard seven to eight shots and then police pointing a gun at a man kneeling on the pavement.
“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” Yi said.
Video footage of the school bus showed its right side bashed in, and firefighters surrounding it as they worked to free children inside.