New York – The police standoff in Columbus Circle has finished after several hours. The suspect is in custody, and the bomb threat was just a hoax.

Around Wednesday at 11:30 p.m., the New York Police Department bomb squad was called after police officers informed them someone threw a suspicious object at a patrol car. The man wearing a red plastic helmet caused a bomb scare throwing the object into the open window of a police vehicle, near 46th Street and Sixth Avenue. The suspect immediately fled the scene.

An NYPD officer evacuates pedestrian from the standoff location. Major mid-Manhattan tourist area packed with high-end retail stores was shut down. Image Credit: Sun Herald

The sergeant Hameed Armani and officer Peter Cybulski drove the vehicle away from the tourist destination. Cybulski told reporters they “knew what each other was thinking” and they weren’t going to let anything occur in Times Square. Officers immediately thought the package was an explosive device and acted respectively to the worst case scenario.

Armani has been with the department for ten years, is an immigrant from Afghanistan and a Muslim. He stated that both Cybulski and he said their prayers at the moment. The package thrown inside the vehicle was then inspected by Armani and Cybulski, founding out it contained a candle and an electronic device with a flashing light, all wrapped in white cloth. Needless to say, it was closer to a practical joke rather than a national threat.

Initially, police officers pulled over a vehicle on 57th St. and Madison Ave., and believing the driver to be the suspect, authorities took him into custody. Sergeant Brendan Ryan has stated that “both the sergeant and officer acted heroically during this event.”

A couple of hours after the incident, patrol officers spotted the suspect in Columbus Circle at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue and pulled him over. He refused to talk and chose to barricade himself in his vehicle. The situation caused a standoff that lasted hours between the police officers and the suspect. After spending five hours negotiating, hostage negotiators and police in tactical gear convinced the suspect to surrender, using a robot equipped with a camera and microphone for communication.

The suspect was identified as cab driver Hector Meneses, 52, from Elmhurst, Queens. Coupled with the helmet, Meneses was wearing sunglasses and a “tactical vest.” During the course of the night, he reportedly told police officers that he had a bomb strapped to his chest and that he wanted to die.

After searching the gray 2008 Chrysler Aspen SUV, with New York plates, police recovered wires, a remote and 19 LED lights. The officers believe he had been trying to make a bomb but failed.

Squad and Emergency Services officers in tactical gear prepared to enter Meneses’ home in Queens, with the aim to look out for weapons and explosives. The police officials also interviewed Meneses’ neighbors, who said he was nosy and has anger issues. Other than that, he was often quiet. Meneses is in custody and was taken to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He is believed to be “mentally disturbed.”

As of now, the  1, A, B, C and D trains have resumed their service at Columbus Circle and the police have released a video of the suspect tossing the hoax bomb.

Source: The Washington Post