NEW YORK – Eight people were killed when a man drove 20 blocks down a bike path beside the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon before he crashed his pickup truck, jumped out with fake guns and was shot by police officers, the authorities said.
Federal authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and were taking the lead in the investigation, a senior law enforcement official said. Two law enforcement officials said that after the attacker got out of the truck, he was heard yelling, "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference: "Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians."
Two law enforcement officials said the driver of the truck, a 29-year-old man who came to the United States in 2010, was in grave condition. One official said he had rented the truck in New Jersey.
The motorist, driving south down the path in a Home Depot rental truck, hit numerous people as nearby Stuyvesant High School was letting out for the day, officials said. At least 15 people were injured, but officials were still working to assess the extent of the casualties.
"He jumped out of the truck with a pellet gun, yelled, 'Allahu Akbar,' and the 1st Precinct lit him up," a law enforcement official said, referring to a police officer who had been on post nearby and who the authorities credited with saving lives.
Witnesses described gunshots ringing out, people scrambling for cover and a street strewn with bodies and crumpled bicycles.
The driver, who was shot several times, was being treated at a nearby hospital. He had crashed the truck into a school bus. It was unclear if anyone was on the bus. The police said they were not looking for additional suspects.
The truck jumped the curb near Houston Street at 3:04 p.m. and began bearing down on the unsuspecting bicyclists, sources told the New York Daily News. Video showed crumpled two-wheelers and four bodies left in the vehicle's deadly wake.
"I heard a truck, a car, something going down the bike path," said eyewitness Eugene Duff, 44, who was waiting at a red light to walk across West Street. "It was wrong."
The off-duty chef watched in disbelief as the driver of the speeding truck ran down a pair of CitiBike riders about 50 feet apart, catching both from behind on the busy bike path alongside the Hudson River.
There were visible tire tracks on the bodies of the two victims as the truck continued to carve a path of carnage through the neighborhood, he said.
"I thought it was terrorism," he said of the Tribeca attack. "That's the first thing that crossed my mind."
The arrest followed a crash involving the rented truck on West Street a few blocks north of the World Trade Center.
Several eyewitnesses initially thought it was some sort of Halloween prank.
One person on the bus was critically injured and rushed to Bellevue Hospital. Authorities said five others on the bus were injured, with 15 injuries in all.
A horde of police vehicles and first responders descended on the scene as eyewitnesses reported hearing as many as 15 gunshots after the crash.
A police officer was apparently shot and suffered a minor injury. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, according to sources.
"I thought it was a Halloween (prank) or something," said witness Tawhid Kabir, 20, of Queens. "I saw the gun(man) running in a circle and I realized it was serious."
NYPD snipers took positions on the roof of the nearby City Vineyard restaurant as cops flooded the neighborhood.
"We thought the guns were fake and it was a Halloween prank," said Stuyvesant High School student Laith Bahlouli, 14. "There was a car crash, and then he started to shoot."
Classmate Alif Rahman, 14, said they heard "four to six gunshots" and then spied two bodies covered with blankets by the NYPD.
A child was seen sitting on the lap of an adult wearing a neck brace after the incident.
"We all heard the gunfire," said witness Michael Corbin, who works at nearby District Council 37. "I heard distinctly five shots in quick succession."
The truck was apparently rented from a Home Depot in Jersey City, N.J., making it likely the driver came through the Holland Tunnel.
A large section of the West Side Highway was closed for the investigation as hundreds of officers, including the bomb squad, responded to the scene. The truck came to a rest near Chambers Street, facing eastbound.
Students at Stuyvesant High School reported that they saw a man shooting from a pickup truck, and then saw the truck turn and strike a school bus.
Ramon Cruz, 27, said the driver appeared injured. Then Cruz said he heard someone yell, "He's got a gun, run, run!"
Several nearby buildings, including Stuyvesant, were placed on lockdown.