Clues swirl around Times Square blast probe
The search for a bicyclist who bombed the Times Square military recruiting office expanded quickly Thursday as the probe’s focus turned to photos of the attack site that were sent to Capitol Hill and possible connections to previous attacks on two consulate buildings in the city.
The early morning bombing at perhaps the armed forces’ most visible presence in the nation’s largest city rattled windows and nerves but caused little damage.
Police quickly identified the primary suspect: a hooded bicyclist spotted near the tiny building perched on the square’s traffic island. Some time before the attack, envelopes containing a photo of the landmark building had been mailed to as many as 10 congressional offices in Washington, a Capitol Hill source told Newsday.
The manila envelopes contained a photo of a man standing in front of the recruiting station before it was bombed, the Associated Press reported. The photo was the kind commonly sent as a holiday greeting card, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation.
The message on the card: “Happy New Year, We Did It.”
The letters were screened by security officers and determined to be safe. None contained threats to lawmakers, police said.
Police on Thursday released a video they believe captured images of the man responsible for the bombing.
The grainy surveillance video shot from a Broadway building shows a man in a hooded sweat shirt and backpack on a bike on the traffic island at 3:37 a.m. He climbed off the bike and walked toward the office, which is off screen. At 3:39 a.m., the suspect mounted the bike and rode south on Broadway. At 3:40 a.m., a blast of white smoke shot north into Times Square, enveloping the traffic island for half a minute.
The explosion burst one pane of a blast-resistant glass door and mangled a door frame. There were no injuries.
Kathy Wright, 43, was asleep on the 45th floor of the Millennium Broadway Hotel when the blast shook her door.
“I’m just glad that we weren’t closer, and no one was hurt,” said Wright, who was visiting with her mother from Lincoln, Neb.
Police interviewed a man they say noticed a cyclist riding slowly in Times Square shortly before the attack.
“What was unusual for him, although it was cold, it was not cold enough to require an individual to have everything covered,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly at a news conference. “His whole face was pretty much covered.”
Kelly said the explosive was in a metal ammunition box like those sold in Army surplus stores. The bomb was “roughly similar” to those used in blasts at the Mexican and British consulates in 2005 and 2007, he said.
“The box was blown apart,” Kelly said. “But we are processing as much as we can to see if there is any evidentiary value.”
Investigators had not yet determined what kind of explosive was used or how the bomb was detonated.
Police also lifted fingerprints from a red 10-speed bike discovered in a Dumpster outside an office building at Madison Avenue and 38th Street.
“It looks ridable, which makes it odd to throw in a Dumpster,” said Carl Mack, an air conditioner mechanic who was working at the building.
Mack said a building staff member spotted the bike in the Dumpster and was going to give it to a homeless man when someone mentioned that the Times Square bomb suspect rode a bike.
Detectives were attempting to track the suspect’s movements before and after the blast through surveillance videos, a police source said, and will speak with people known to have disrupted office recruiters, who have been the frequent target of Iraq war protesters.