Authorities say Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, 29, drove onto a bicycle path with a rented Home Depot flatbed pickup truck on Houston Street shortly after 3 p.m. and headed downtown. He knocked down victims before smashing into a school bus on Chambers Street, jumping out and yelling “Allahu Akbar!”
He then waved two toy guns around and was ultimately shot in the abdomen by a police officer. He underwent surgery and is now in recovery awaiting an interview by police.
Authorities say he had a driver’s license from Tampa, Florida.
Police say Saipov came to the US seven years ago from Uzbekistan under the “Diversity Visa” program, which offers visas from people in countries with few immigrants to America.
In addition to Tampa, he also lived in Ohio and, most recently, across the river from New York in Patterson, New Jersey, ABC news reports.
He most recently worked as an Uber driver, passing a background check, but was recently banned from the app.
“We are horrified by this senseless act of violence,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the victims and their families. We have reached out to law enforcement to provide our full assistance.”
Inside the wrecked rental truck were images of ISIS flags and a handwritten note pledging his allegiance to the terrorist group. Part of the note read “ISIS live forever,” The Daily Mail reports.
Media outlets differ on whether it was one note, written in English or several notes, written in Arabic.
The Daily Mail caught up with a friend of Saipov:
Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, of Maimisburg, Ohio, said that he met Saipov five years ago, and they bonded over their shared Uzbek heritage.
‘He is very good guy, he is very friendly… he is like little brother… he look at me like big brother,’ he told The New York Post.
He said Saipov had been working as an Uber driver in New Jersey this summer, and that the alleged terrorist had driven him, his wife and their five children to New York’s JFK airport during a recent trip to their home country.
Saipov was very friendly, he said, and good with children: ‘My kids like him too, he is always playing with them. He is playing all the time,’ he said – but added that when one of the children asked to take a photo with him, Saipov refused. ‘He no like that. He said no,’ Matkarov said.
The New York Post managed to interview the manager at his local grocery store, who said he was notorious for his aggressive and “erratic behavior.”
“Every time he came here he was always erratic or arguing with the cashiers,” the manager told The Post about the terror killer. “He would get angry very fast…. he would break the cans, dumb things.”
The manager, who declined to give her name, said Saipov was very rude to the cashiers, and called them “uneducated.”
“I feel like he was prejudice to the cashiers — whether they were covered or not in a hijab — he would belittle them,” the manager said.
“He was talking good English, proper, but he would call the cashiers dumb, uneducated — how they didn’t know how to scan the items.”