Police seek to question man in NYC rice cooker bomb scare

NEW YORK (AP) — Three abandoned devices that looked like pressure cookers caused an evacuation of a major New York City subway station and closed off an intersection in another part of town Friday morning before police determined the objects were not explosives.

Police were looking to talk to a man seen on surveillance video taking two of the objects — which police identified as rice cookers — out of a shopping cart and placing them in a subway station in lower Manhattan. In a photo released by authorities, the young man is lugging a cooker into an elevator.

But police stressed that so far, it wasn't clear whether he was trying to frighten people or merely throwing the objects away.

"I would stop very short of calling him a suspect," said John Miller, the New York Police Department's top counterterror official. "It is possible that somebody put out a bunch of items in the trash today and this guy picked them up and then discarded them, or it's possible that this was an intentional act."

Earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said authorities suspected the items were placed in the subway "to suggest that they were electronic devices and possible bombs."

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Victims of NYC terror attack on bike path

Ann-Laure Decadt, 31

Ann-Laurie, a mother of two from Belgium, was riding bicycles with her mom and two sisters along the West Side of Lower Manhattan when she was mowed down.

Photo Credit: Family handout

Darren Drake, 32

The 32-year-old New Jersey resident is remembered by his devastated parents as "the perfect son." 

Photo Credit: Facebook

Nicholas Cleves, 23

Nicholas, the only New York City resident to die in Tuesday's attack, is remembered by those who knew him as a "sweetheart" and a "warm and friendly" person.

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Ariel Erlij, 48

Ariel was visiting NYC from Argentina with a group of friends to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation.  

Photo Credit: Facebook

Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, 47

Alejandro was among the friends visiting with Ariel. Alejandro is pictured second from the left. 

Hernan Ferruci, 47

Hernan was also in town with the other 4 Argentinian victims.

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Diego Angelini, 47

Diego was also visiting NYC from Argentina with his group of friends from High School.

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Hernán Diego Mendoza, 47

Mendoza was also accompanying his friends from Argentina on their trip to NYC. 

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Many rice cookers look like pressure cookers, but the latter use pressure to cook food quickly — a function that has been used to turn them into bombs.

Police swarmed the initial finds around 7 a.m. on the mezzanine and platform of the Fulton Street station, a few blocks from the World Trade Center and New York Stock Exchange. Dozens of suspicious packages are reported daily in New York City, but the proximity to the site of the Sept. 11 attacks served to heighten anxiety before police gave the all-clear.

About two hours later, a third rice cooker — the same make, year and model — was also found about 2 miles away (3 kilometers) on a sidewalk in the Chelsea neighborhood, prompting another police investigation.

"This is a frightening world we live in, and all of these situations have to be taken seriously because God forbid one day ... it's a real device," said Cuomo, a Democrat. "We learned the hard way after 9/11, and we are prepared."

Michael Oji, a New Jersey resident who works in lower Manhattan, said he's lived in the metro area for more than 20 years and saw the additional security that came to the area after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Going to work in the morning, thinking that everything's OK, and you run into something like this, it's scary," he said just outside an entrance to the station that had been closed off by armed officers.

Multiple subway lines were partially suspended during the police investigation at Fulton Street, and delays continued throughout the morning.

Pressure cookers packed with explosives killed three people and injured hundreds when a pair of Islamic extremists detonated them during the Boston Marathon in 2013.

In September 2016, a pressure-cooker bomb went off in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 30 people.

In 2017, a would-be suicide attacker set off a homemade pipe bomb in an underground passageway at the Times Square subway station during rush hour, seriously injuring himself.


Associated Press writer Joe Danborn contributed to this report.

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