Just after 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, 15-year-old Franklin Li and his friend stepped out of their Stuyvesant High School class to grab a sandwich from a local deli. Before the high schoolers could finish their meal, they were interrupted by a group of students sprinting. Li says he heard someone say “car accident” before fleeing.
Curious, Li and his friend walked up the street toward the accident. That’s when they heard gunshots.
Li said he heard about 10 to 15 shots of what sounded like semi-automatic fire. The shots sounded less than a block away. Li said he and his friend bolted from the scene along with a crowd of TriBeCa pedestrians — many of whom were dressed in their Halloween costumes.
“We genuinely thought the [the driver] was coming toward us,” Li said.
The two scrambled their way to a nearby retirement center where they took shelter with about 20 other people.
While locked in the retirement home lobby, Li said he checked his phone for news updates. He then saw a video of the driver on his phone. Li said the man he saw in the video was wearing a blue and red jacket and carried a firearm in each of his hands — both of which turned out to be fake — and “pranced” around a totaled truck.
According to recent reports, the man responsible for Tuesday’s attack in TriBeCa that left eight people dead and many more wounded was 29-year-old Uzbekistan immigrant Saipov Habinullaevic Saipov. The attacker drove more than 20 blocks down a bike path along the Hudson River before crashing his Home Depot rental truck.
It was then, out of the carnage of broken metal and crushed bodies, that Saipov emerged holding two fake guns. Not long after, members of the New York Police Department fired several shots at Saipov and apprehended him.
Saipov was reportedly heard yelling the Arabic words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” before he was shot by police. The New York Times reported that officials found notes from Saipov indicating his loyalty to the jihadist militant group, the Islamic State. As of now no known terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Immediately following, nearby schools, including Stuyvesant High School, were placed on lockdown. For hours, worried parents awaited news of their children’s safety. Local residents and employees were told to stay behind police barriers which stretch all the way to West Broadway and Chambers street. At around 5:30 p.m. police were escorting some residents back to their apartments.
Reactions from pedestrians on scene ranged from fear to anger. At a police barricade off of Warren and West Streets, police struggled to keep pedestrians from entering the crime area.
Gloria Yanez, a GLS senior, lives in an apartment building a block away from where the driver was shot. Yanez said she was completing her Topics in Urban Management midterm when the attack took place. She turned on her phone to find a slew of concerned messages.
“When I read the news I just got really mad because what kind of sick bastard not only runs over people with a van but targets an elementary and a high school, especially on a day when kids and families are excited to go trick or treating, or to the Halloween parade,” Yanez said.
The senior said that the building management called her immediately after the event alerting her that the building had been put on lockdown.
At 7:00 p.m. the NYPD released a statement on its Twitter page advising New York residents to expect an increased police presence throughout the city.
Out of an abundance of caution, you will see an increase of NYPD personnel throughout NYC, including the Halloween Parade.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) October 31, 2017
In the wake of this attack, officials across NYU, New York and the nation have spoken out condemning the attack.
This was a cowardly act of terror. It was intended to break our spirit. But New Yorkers are resilient. We will be undeterred.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) October 31, 2017
Email Mack DeGeurin at [email protected]