Police: 1 Suspect In Custody In N.Y. Subway Blast

Dec 11, 2017
Originally published on December 11, 2017 1:45 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One block away from Times Square in New York City, there's a bus terminal that covers two square blocks. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is positioned to take in countless commuter buses from outside the city. Thousands of people use it every morning. And in a subway tunnel beneath that terminal this morning in the height of rush hour, well, something exploded. Police say one suspect is in custody. And we're going to talk through what happened with NPR's Joel Rose, who covers New York City. Hi there, Joel.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: Can you walk us through the timeline and what is known, what little is known, at this point?

ROSE: Right. We're awaiting a press briefing momentarily to get hopefully more information about this incident. But we know it's shortly after 7:00 a.m. this morning, between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., as you said, right in the the meat of the morning rush hour, there was an explosion at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in the subway. As you note, that's below the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is said to be the busiest in North America. Hundreds of thousands of daily riders go through there. Police say one male suspect is in custody.

And the fire department says there are injuries, four injuries reported so far, but none of them are life threatening, according to the fire department. But again, there's a suspect, one - a man and he is in custody, according to police.

INSKEEP: OK, so a mixture of reports about exactly what happened. And we should treat all information at this point with caution, with skepticism because things change in a developing story. But the sense that we get is that someone caused that explosion in the subway. It must not have been all that large an explosion, given how crowded a subway tunnel can be and the limited number of injuries. And the person who is blamed for - the suspect who is in some way connected, I guess we should say, to this explosion, according to police, is is in custody. Is that right?

ROSE: Yeah, I mean, I think you've got those dots and, you know, I think those dots are correct and how we connect them is, you know, as you say, you want to be cautious until there's more information out there. And hopefully there will be soon. But, right, I mean, if there was an explosion in the subway at this extremely busy Times Square subway station at rush hour, there would be hundreds or even thousands of people in the station, hundreds on any given platform if a train had just come in.

Yeah, and so I think if four injuries is the total number for this incident, you know, that suggests whatever the explosion was was not terribly powerful. But, you know, it's early and I don't think we want to draw too many conclusions yet.

INSKEEP: Hey, Joel, I know you live in New Jersey and work in Manhattan. Are you one of the people who sometimes takes a bus into that terminal?

ROSE: No, I'm one of the fortunate commuters using Penn Station.

INSKEEP: Oh, you take a train in instead.

ROSE: Yeah, which is no bargain either. But Port Authority is, you know, it's the busiest bus station in North America. Hundreds of thousands of commuters every day, mainly from New Jersey. But, you know, people come in from all over - from the Hudson Valley, from Pennsylvania, from, you know, points south and west. So it's a major portal into the city. It is right next to Times Square, the Lincoln Tunnel. You know, The New York Times headquarters is across the street. I mean, it's one of the busiest corners in all of New York.

INSKEEP: And now let's bring up - a number of officials, including Bill de Blasio, the mayor, have now come to the microphones. Let's give a listen for a few minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS BRIEFING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...Passageway between 42nd and 8th, and 42nd and 7th. The governor is going to speak. The mayor's going to speak. I'm going to give you some more details. Dan Nigro's going to talk about some of the minor injuries and then Joe Lhota's going to talk about subway service. Governor?

ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you. Good morning to everyone. The first news this morning was obviously very frightening and disturbing, when you hear about a bomb in the subway station, which is in many ways one of our worst nightmares. The reality turns out better than the initial expectation and fear. You had a number of law enforcement agencies that did a fantastic job - the NYPD, the BAPD, the Port Authority Police, the MTA police. They were all on it.

You see behind us representatives of all the agencies coordinated. The assistant director of the FBI Bill Sweeney is here. So everyone worked together. There was an explosion. The police commissioner will go over the details. It was a minor - it was an effectively low-tech device. There were several injuries, we hope minor. And it was handled extraordinarily well. There was a disruption in train service and bus service while a sweep was being done. That's all being restored now, as you'll hear from Joe Lhota. The subway station - subway service except at 42nd Street is being restored. The Port Authority bus terminal has reopened so buses will be running once again.

This is New York. The reality is that we are a target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy, against freedom. We have the Statue of Liberty in our harbor, and that makes us an international target. We understand that. With the internet now, anyone can go on the internet and download garbage and vileness on how to put together an amateur-level explosive device. And that is the reality that we live with.

The counter reality is that this is New York, and we all pitch together. And we are a savvy people, and we keep our eyes open. And that's what See Something, Say Something is all about. And we have the best law enforcement on the globe. And we're all working together extraordinarily well. I want to thank the mayor and the mayor's office for doing a great job this morning. And we will go forward, and we'll go forward together. All the service will resume. Let's go back to work. We're not going to allow them to disrupt us. That's exactly what they want.

INSKEEP: And that's Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, standing on the street outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan today and giving us a little bit of information about an explosion. Someone caused that explosion in a subway tunnel underneath the giant bus terminal. According to the fire department, four people were injured, none of the injuries are said to be life-threatening. Governor Cuomo described the prospect of such a rush-hour attack as one of our worst nightmares but says the reality has turned out better than feared. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.