NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Witnesses say an incident that left at least eight dead in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, didn’t look like road rage — as they initially heard it was.
Officials later said it was indeed a terror attack.
A truck entered a bike path a few blocks north of Chambers Street along the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan.
The truck rammed several people on the path from behind and ultimately smashed into a school bus at Chambers Street.
A man came out of the truck after striking the school bus wielding what appeared to be two weapons that turned out to be fake. Video from the scene shows the armed man running through the road along the West Side Highway near Chambers Street.
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.
Officers shot the suspect. Sources told CBS2 suspect the suspect was shot in the buttocks. He was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.
After the attack, bent metal from mangled bicycles was left scattered across the popular bike path. The people riding them moments earlier were blindsided by the madman responsible for the Halloween afternoon act of terror.
Karina Steiner was picking her son up at P.S. 89 on Chambers Street near the West Side Highway as it all unfolded.
“I heard a very loud, it was a very loud crash,” she said.
After getting her son, she looked through a metal railing to see what was going on.
“I could see a lot of smoke and that’s when I started seeing people on the West Side Highway hitting the ground, and I saw this guy, I don’t know what he was holding. It looked a rifle, but it had a metal canister it looked like one of those air guns in a weird way. I don’t know what it was but he was definitely aiming it, and it was right there, right by the school,” she said.
Steiner said someone screamed that shots were fired, and parents rushed their children into the school.
Once inside she said they were told that the incident had been road rage.
“We keep hearing it’s road rage, but it just didn’t seem like road rage to me, it seemed like something else,” she told CBS2’s Kristine Johnson.
She said she saw people take off and hit the ground as the suspect ran down the street carrying something that looked like a gun with an air canister.
“It did not look like a typical hand gun or rifle, or anything like that,” she said.
Rebecca Collins, a student at Stuyvesant High School, was getting ready to leave for the day when she was ordered to shelter in place.
“Lately in the news there have been just so many mass shootings and so many shootings in general, and every time you’re kind of like a little desensitized to it, especially when it’s far away. But to have something happen – it’s like ironic to have something happen so close to you and so close to your school,” she told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
One witness on the West Side Highway stopped to record a video of the man running in the street.
“I saw, in the intersection, he was running with a gun. And then suddenly I heard the gunshots — like five, six gunshots – then we all went down, because we didn’t know from which part the gunshots were coming. So we were all scared,” Tawhid Kabir said. “He was pointing like randomly, but he wasn’t shooting that time when I saw him. So after five, six gunshots, then I saw again the guy was down and the cops were just covering him.”
“I’m not sure what he’s doing. I thought he was a mental patient or something, like he’s just running in a circle in the middle of the road.”
Those who saw the carnage begin described a terrifying scene.
Chef Eugene Duffy had just left work at City Vineyards on Pier 26 when his world changed in the blink of an eye, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“I hear a commotion coming from behind me – a loud noise of a female screaming,” witness Eugene Duffy told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “It’s a different kind of yelling.”
“I look out and I see a truck going down toward Chambers Street, and I’m saying, ‘What’s going on?’ So as I go down more – he’s in the bike lane – I see two gentlemen laying right there in the bike lane with tire marks across their bodies, and you could tell that they’re not here no more,” he continued.
Images from the scene showed a flatbed truck with a smashed up front end. Video from the scene showed several mangled bicycles along the bike path.
“A vehicle drove straight down a bicycle path heading south in Manhattan just mowing everything down,” witness Greg Ahl told 1010 WINS. “It looks like a vehicle drove down the bicycle path and ran everything over.”
“I noticed along the bike path a bunch of wrecked bicycles and as I drove it was just more and more completely and totally wrecked bicycles and people mulling around to the side. I must’ve seen 30 or 40 bicycles like that,” Ahl said.
“I saw a lot of debris, like car parts of something in one of the piles of bicycles but it was a lot,” he added.
John Williams a 22-year-old student saw the truck after the crash.
“It was completely smashed in and there was smoke coming out of the front,” he said.
Another student, Alyssa DeBross told WCBS 880 that she walked through the scene in the immediate aftermath.
“The bikes that were broken, the Citi Bikes, they were broken on the floor next to them, and when we walked past just recently, the cops were putting covers over the bodies,” she said.
Late Tuesday, those who have enjoyed the path without thinking twice were thinking — it could have been them.
“Sometimes I bike up and down here every morning just for exercise,” one man said.
“We’re just glad it wasn’t us; I mean, we are almost lout here out every day and walking along here with the dog and everything, and we see what happens down there,” another man said. “It’s terrible.”
Many also said they are well aware of the fact that places like restaurants, movie theaters and shopping areas can be soft targets for terrorism. But they never thought the bike path near the Hudson River would be somewhere where they couldn’t feel safe.