NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-New York) said Tuesday night that the suspect in a vehicular terror attack in Lower Manhattan that left eight people dead appears to have left few clues about his plans beforehand.
King also said attacks involving vehicles are extremely hard to prevent.
More than a dozen people were also injured in the attack, in which a rented Home Depot truck entered the bike path at Houston Street along the West Side Highway. The truck rammed several people on the path from behind and ultimately crashed into a school bus at Chambers Street.
A suspect was shot by police and is in custody in what officials called an act of terrorism. The suspect was identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov. He is believed to be from Uzbekistan and had a Florida driver’s license.
King, chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence in the House Homeland Security Committee, told CBS2’s Dick Brennan and Alice Gainer on TV 10/55 that he has been speaking with people involved in the investigation – and the main thing they were trying to determine late Wednesday was whether there was any overseas involvement.
“They’re going through all the social media to see if they can track anything down. So far as I know and so far as they know, there was nothing obvious that jumped out right away – but that’s only at the first look,” King said. “They’re right now going through everything, and for the most part – he came here in 2010, but he lived in Tampa down in Florida for most of the time, and recently he’s been in New Jersey, so he’s not really a New York person. So, but again, all of this is being analyzed and looked at.”
Investigators do believe the suspect was inspired by ISIS, King said.
Witnesses told the NYPD the suspect shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic when he jumped out of the truck. Meanwhile, a federal law enforcement source told CBS News a note was found in the suspect’s truck that made reference to ISIS.
Meanwhile, King said an attack like the one on Tuesday would be difficult to predict or prevent – especially given how few clues the suspect left.
“This is the toughest type of attack of all to stop. If the person does not have any Instagram; social media; if he’s not been known in his community to be an outspoken radical; if he hasn’t been seen at any radical meetings or anything like that; and if he’s not been buying any high-powered weapons or explosives or extra amounts of fertilizer or anything like that, it’s very tough,” King said.
He said setting up more barriers, as the city has already done in other sensitive areas such as Times Square, would be a good idea. But as to prevention, he said the best hope if there is nothing to go on when it comes to social media is to hope that someone figures out what’s going on ahead of time and notifies law enforcement.
“But this is the enemy we’re up against, and I wish I could say there’s a magic answer, but there really isn’t. Sometimes in crime, there are things that can be; you have a very good chance of preventing. This one – if you don’t get the person when they’re renting the car; if you don’t have any reason to be suspicious of them, after that, all the odds are in their favor,” he said.
The suspect remained under police guard at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue late Tuesday.