A man suspected of tossing a hoax bomb through the open window of a police vehicle in Times Square was taken into custody Thursday after an overnight standoff in Columbus Circle, the New York Police Department said.
The episode began when a person in a passing vehicle tossed a cylindrical object into the police van late Wednesday, said Chief of Department James O’Neill. The driver of the van sped to a less crowded neighborhood, and he and his partner notified the bomb squad.
“These two officers are heroes of the NYPD, heroes of New York City,” Police Commissioner William Bratton tweeted.
Sgt. Hameed Armani, who was driving the van, said he made a quick decision when the object came through the window.
“I look around, saw a lot of kids, a lot of young people,” Armani said at a news briefing. “‘‘We both look at each other and I go, ‘We’re going to go, but I’m not going to have anyone else go with us.’“
His partner, Officer Peter Cybulski, said he was “nervous” as Armani drove to a less crowded spot.
The object turned out to include a candle and a harmless electrical component. A police photo showed them displayed beside foil and white cloth.
Officers spotted the suspect’s SUV at around 2 a.m. Thursday at Columbus Circle and pulled it over.
The suspect “rolls up the window, puts his hands towards the glove compartment and says that he wants to die and has a bomb strapped to his vest,” said Bill Aubry, chief of Manhattan detectives.
Aubry said the man put on a red helmet and continued to act erratically.
SWAT officers closed in.
Surrounding streets were closed and subway trains bypassed the area, a traffic circle at the southwest corner of Central Park that is home to the Time Warner Center and the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
The standoff ended around 8 a.m. after police sent a robot to check out the man’s SUV because they didn’t know what was inside it.