NEW YORK (AP) — Investigators worked through the night to determine what led a truck driver to plow down people on a riverfront bike path near the World Trade Center, brandishing air guns and yelling “God is great” in Arabic as his deadly route of terror ended with a crash, authorities said.
Eight people were killed and 11 seriously injured in a Halloween afternoon attack that the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror.” The driver — identified by officials as an immigrant from Uzbekistan — was in critical condition but expected to survive after a police officer shot him in the abdomen.
A roughly two-mile stretch of highway in downtown Manhattan was shut down for the investigation. Authorities also converged on a New Jersey home and a van in a parking lot at a New Jersey Home Depot store. Authorities were scrutinizing a note found inside the attacker’s rented truck, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Police and the FBI urged members of the public to give them any photos or video that could help. The attack echoed a strategy that the Islamic State group has been suggesting to its followers. While police didn’t specifically blame any group for the strike, President Donald Trump railed against the Islamic State and declared “enough!” and “NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”
The victims reflected a city that is a melting pot and a magnet for visitors: One of the dead was from Belgium. Five were from Argentina and were celebrating the 30th anniversary of a school graduation, according to officials in those countries. The injured included students and staffers on a school bus that the driver rammed.
“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,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.
Officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity identified the slight, bearded attacker as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old who came to the U.S. legally in 2010. He has a Florida driver’s license but may have been staying in New Jersey, they said.
Records show Saipov was a commercial truck driver who formed a pair of businesses in Ohio. He had also driven for Uber, the ride-hailing company said. An Ohio marriage license shows that a truck driver with one of Saipov’s addresses and his name, spelled slightly differently, married a fellow Uzbek in 2013.
During his time in Fort Myers, Florida, several years ago, Saipov was “a very good person,” an acquaintance, Kobiljon Matkarov, told The New York Times.
“He liked the U.S. He seemed very lucky, and all the time, he was happy and talking like everything is OK. He did not seem like a terrorist, but I did not know him from the inside,” Matkarov said. He said Saipov later moved to New Jersey and began driving for Uber. San Francisco-based Uber said he started over six months ago.
Police said the attacker rented the truck at about 2 p.m. at a New Jersey Home Depot and then went into New York City, entering the bike path about an hour later and speeding toward the World Trade Center, the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history.
He barreled along the bike path in the truck for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus.
“A person hopped out of the car with two guns and started yelling and screaming,” said a 12-year-old student who had just left a nearby school. “They were yelling ‘Allahu Akbar.’”
The student, whose mother asked that his name be withheld, said he ran back into the school, where students cried and huddled in a corner.
Video shot by bystanders showed Saipov walking through traffic wielding what looked like two handguns, but which police later said were a paintball gun and a pellet gun. A police officer shot Saipov when he wouldn’t drop the weapons, police said.
The mayhem set off panic in the neighborhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.
“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.
The note inside the truck was handwritten in a foreign language, according to one of the two law enforcement officials who spoke about the document. Both said its contents were being investigated but supported the belief the act was terrorism.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called Tuesday’s carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
New York and other cities around the globe have been on high alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. England, France and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the past year or so.
NEW YORK (ABC NEWS) – In what New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called a “cowardly act of terror,” a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a bike path Tuesday afternoon.
The sprawling crime scene runs about 10 blocks along the West Side Highway, a few blocks away from One World Trade Center.
Witness Andrew Howell said he was walking along the path when he saw a truck plow into two cyclists riding about 20 feet in front of him; he said the impact sent one of the victims straight up into the air, and the man was motionless when he landed back on the ground. The driver then continued at a high speed before crashing, Howell said.
A uniformed police officer was credited with stopping the carnage.
A suspect is in custody and was identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov of Tampa, Florida, multiple law enforcement officials told ABC News.
The suspect is reported to have screamed “Allahu Akbar” after the crash, and that is a key reason authorities are looking at terrorism as a possible motive, sources said.
Saipov left a note saying he carried out the attack on behalf of ISIS, law enforcement officials tell ABC News.
The NYPD and FBI are “seeking the public’s assistance in the investigation into the terrorist act that occurred in lower Manhattan earlier today. The public is urged to share any images or videos that could assist in the investigation,” according to a statement from the NYPD.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there was no evidence of a wider, ongoing threat but he said more police would be monitoring the streets on Halloween night. The city’s annual Halloween parade in the West Village will still take place tonight, officials said.
The deadly incident began at about 3:05 p.m., when the vehicle — a Home Depot rental truck, according to the company — entered the West Street pedestrian and bike path north of Chambers Street, hitting multiple people on the path, New York City police said.
The crash occurred in an area near multiple city schools, and many were placed on a temporary lockdown after the crash.
Six of the deceased victims were pronounced dead at the scene; two more died at a nearby hospital. Police said 13 were wounded with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The truck collided with a school bus on Chambers Street near Stuyvesant High School, injuring two school staff members and two children, police said. One of the students was in critical condition Tuesday night, according to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.
“Today there was an act of terror in close proximity to several schools in lower Manhattan,” Farina said. “We stand with the entire city as we mourn this senseless loss of life. We are grateful to the first responders and school staff who work tirelessly to help keep our schools and communities safe.”
After the collision, the truck driver exited the vehicle brandishing what appeared to be two handguns, police said. A uniformed police officer confronted the suspect and shot him in the abdomen, police said.
The suspect was wounded and transported to a hospital, police said.
A paintball gun and a pellet gun were recovered at the scene, police said.
Five Argentinians were among the fatalities, the country’s consulate in New York City announced, adding that they were celebrating their 30th anniversary from a high school in Rosario. The dead were identified as Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernan Ferruchi. The consulate confirmed one other person was being treated for injuries at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Didier Reynders, tweeted that a Belgian citizen was one of the fatalities, and that three Belgians were wounded.
WABC chopper footage showed a scene of police activity at a Home Depot in Passaic, New Jersey, where Saipov is believed to have rented the truck used in the attack.
A witness told ABC’s New York station WABC that after the truck hit multiple people on the bike path, it crashed into a school bus at Chambers and West streets, near Stuyvesant High School.
“Everybody started running,” the witness said. “… Everything was happening so fast.”
The witness added of the driver, “He kept going all the way down full speed.”
“Thank God the trick-or-treaters weren’t out yet,” the witness later said.
Video from the scene showed mangled bicycles strewn across the bike path. Israel Ase, who witnessed the aftermath, told ABC News, “I saw broken bikes and people laying on the ground and others waving down the traffic. I thought it was an accident.”
“I called 911,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything more to help. I’m still in shock.”
The FBI responded to the incident.
President Trump has been briefed, according to a White House spokesperson.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray have also been briefed.
The Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday night that it “will work with its partners in law enforcement and the intelligence community to thoroughly investigate this matter. Our deepest condolences go out to the victims of this vicious terrorist attack and our hearts are with all the people of New York.”
ABC News’ Pierre Thomas, Jack Date and Mike Levine contributed to this report