NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The NYPD says they have identified the man they’re looking for after suspicious devices found abandoned in a Lower Manhattan subway station caused extensive delays in the morning commute on Friday.
They’re calling him a person of interest however, authorities now say they don’t believe he was intentionally trying to incite panic. They consider the incidents reckless endangerment.
Investigators believe he is a homeless man from West Virginia. Police say he found the rice cookers in the trash outside a Chelsea restaurant, and they believe he meant to sell them and had no malicious intent. They do still want to talk to him.
Watch: Officials Give Update On Suspicious Devices Found In Subway
There were tense scenes along Fulton Street Friday morning as the bomb squad surrounded the Fulton Street and William Street subway station. The entire block was evacuated at the peak of morning rush hour.
NYPD officers, the MTA and bomb squad converged to investigate the suspicious devices.
“They shut down all the jobs. We can’t even go down Fulton, can’t do nothing right now, probably have to go home and lose my day,” said John Rodriguez.
The NYPD is looking to locate and identify this individual who’s wanted for questioning in regard to the suspicious items inside the Fulton Street subway station this morning in Lower Manhattan. Contact @NYPDTips at #800577TIPS with info — alert a cop or call 911 if you see him. pic.twitter.com/OFTJgPv2sw
— Chief Terence Monahan (@NYPDChiefofDept) August 16, 2019
The NYPD says a passenger discovered a suspicious package along the 2 and 3 subway platform at 7 a.m. A second one was later found by the mezzanine.
“This was a serious incident and we took it very seriously,” said New York City Transit Authority CEO Andy Byford.
The MTA suspended all service at the station as officers worked to clear the devices. Minutes after officers cleared the scene at Fulton another device were reported near 16th and 7th Avenue in Chelsea. All three devices turned out to be rice cookers – the same make and model.
“Because of the timing and the placement of the items, we are treating this right now is hoax device. That is the investigative category,” said NYPD Deputy Chief of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
The NYPD has cleared the device found at 7th Avenue and 16th Street.
Thank you to New York’s Finest for their quick work and our fellow New Yorkers for keeping calm and patient as the NYPD did their work.
Investigations into this and the Fulton street incident are underway. https://t.co/yEyGSTyfrf
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 16, 2019
Police confirmed late Friday morning that all three devices were connected. Officers released a photo of a person of interest seen pushing a shopping cart near Fulton Street. They say he is also responsible for the Chelsea scare.
“It’s New York. Everything goes one here… life goes on,” said Hector Colon.
The police activity caused delays on nine different subway lines.
“I have to get another train soon because I’m going exactly where the situation is,” said commuter Ruth Springer. “Today is not a good day to be inconvenienced.”
“I don’t know what the deliberate act is his motivation. Whether he wanted to inspire fear or was simply trying to discard these items. To get there, we are going to have to identify him,” Miller said.
“We immediately suspended service on line 2 and 3 and we started bypassing service on the other lines. As ever, we always put safety first,” said Byford.
After the all clear was given, the 2 and 3 lines continued to bypass the Fulton Street stop while police continued the investigation.
“I want to thank the NYPD for the quick and effective response,” said MTA CEO Pat Foye. “I also want to thank – on behalf of Andy Byford and I – the Transit Workers Union members who responded as they always do in a crisis.”
The station is a busy transit hub a few blocks from the World Trade Center.
In 2017, a would-be suicide attacker set off a homemade pipe bomb in an underground passageway at the Port Authority subway station in Times Square during rush hour, seriously injuring himself.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)