NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Queens man has been arrested after authorities say he plotted to bomb Manhattan’s Times Square.
The 22-year-old man from Queens allegedly bought illegal guns and wanted to use a suicide vest and grenades to attack Times Square to kill police officers and civilians.
Authorities say Alam bought two guns with their serial numbers removed from undercover agents.
His parents were in court, along with a family friend. His mother was quietly crying most of the time, reported CBS2’s Alice Gainer.
Outside of court neither his family nor lawyer would comment.
“What do you think about your son’s charges? What do you have to say about the firearms purchases? The judge called your client a danger to the community – do you believe that?” Gainer asked.
“No comment,” was the reply.
Alam did very little talking in court as the judge read the charges against him. But according to the criminal complaint, Alam did a lot of talking about plotting an attack, Gainer reported.
“Mr. Alam discussed guns, suicide vests, hand grenades, and surveilled crowded New York targets such as Times Square”, said Police Commissioner James O’Neill. “Our job is to prevent these terrorist attacks whenever we can before they are carried out. This case is another example of the tightly-knit teamwork of the JTTF and the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau. Mr. Alam is charged with illegally purchasing untraceable firearms from undercover officers. That was a clear indicator of his intent to move his plot forward.”
Authorities say Alam wanted to either attack Times Square or Washington D.C., with an eye toward killing a “senior government official.”
Alam reportedly went to Times Square for reconnaissance and made videos as he was researching potential targets.
Authorities say Alam underwent laser surgery to correct his vision and allegedly linked his decision to get surgery with his plot.
“Let’s say we are in an attack, right, say that my glasses fall off. What if I accidentally shoot you? You know what I mean. Imagine what the news channel would call me the ‘Looney Tunes Terrorist’ or the ‘Blind Terrorist,’” Alam allegedly said.
Police believe he was working alone.
Neighbors at his Jackson Heights, Queens apartment building say Alam lived there with his parents.
“He was kind of weird and would always stay quiet. I would never talk to him,” one neighbor said.
“Right when I left my house, I just saw 10-15 federal agents, you know, with guns and with the vests,” another neighbor said. “The guy wouldn’t open the door. Later on, they went back downstairs, got some tools, came up and they actually broke in.”
Sources say Alam got on law enforcement’s radar after searching for explosives. Authorities then set up a sting.
He was arrested Thursday after trying to purchase guns from officers with the JTTF.
Alam was taken into custody and is expected to be arraigned in federal court Friday afternoon in Brooklyn.
There’s no indication Alam was part of a larger plot and it looks like a “lone wolf” situation.
Sources say the public was not in danger at any time.
The Crossroads of the World is a busy tourist destination and a constant target of would-be terrorists and others looking to do harm.
“Horrible to think about the world and what it has come to,” said Times Square visitor Tyler Roberts. “It’s almost everyday we hear about something of this nature.”
In 2010, a man was arrested for leaving a car bomb in Times Square, but he botched it. It never ended up blowing up, it just smoked.
In 2017, a man drove his car into pedestrians in Times Square, killing one and injuring dozens more.
Many are relieved Alam was stopped before anything could happen.
“Thank goodness they’re on top of it. I’m glad that our safety is being taken care of,” one woman said.
Alam is a college student who works two jobs. He’s currently detained and was denied bail.