8 dead in New York City truck attack; mayor calls it act of terror

Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, 29, has been identified as the suspect

(CBS NEWS) - Police and witnesses say a motorist drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial in Manhattan and struck several people, then emerged from the vehicle screaming and brandishing imitation firearms before he was shot by police.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said eight were dead and nearly a dozen were injured in what he described as a terror attack. He called it "a very painful day in our city" and said the rampage was a "cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians."    

"Today there was a loss of innocent life in lower Manhattan," NYPD commissioner James O'Neill said at a Tuesday press conference.

Both O'Neill and de Blasio praised the work of an officer who they said stopped the assailant.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the attack appeared to be a "lone wolf" incident with no apparent link to a wider terrorist group or plot.

The incident occurred at West Street and Chambers Street just after 3 p.m., CBS New York reported. The NYPD said on its Twitter account just before 3:30 p.m. that one person is in custody. 

The vehicle entered the pedestrian/bike path a few blocks north of Chambers St. The truck drove down the bike path for about four blocks, striking cyclists and pedestrians before veering back into traffic lanes and striking a school bus and another vehicle.  

Four people on board the school bus were injured, CBS New York reports. Officials said Tuesday they were two adults and two children.

The suspect, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, then emerged brandishing the imitation firearms. An officer shot him in the abdomen and he was transported to the hospital. A pellet gun and a paintball gun were recovered at the scene, O'Neill said. The department isn't looking for any other suspects, the station reported. 

Saipov entered the U.S. in 2010, law enforcement officials told NBC News.

Six people were pronounced dead at the scene and two others died at the hospital, officials said. Eleven others suffered injuries.

Witnesses described a harrowing scene.

"A vehicle drove straight down a bicycle path heading south in Manhattan just mowing everything down," witness Greg Ahl told 1010 WINS. "It looks like a vehicle drove down the bicycle path and ran everything over."    

An Associated Press photographer on the scene Tuesday witnessed at least two bodies lying motionless on the path beneath tarps. 

Video from the scene showed several mangled bicycles along the bike path.

"I noticed along the bike path a bunch of wrecked bicycles and as I drove it was just more and more completely and totally wrecked bicycles and people mulling around to the side. I must've seen 30 or 40 bicycles like that," Ahl said.  

A man who was riding in an Uber along the West Side Highway near Chambers street says he saw several bleeding people on the ground. 

Home Depot confirmed that the vehicle involved is a Home Depot rental truck, but the company couldn't confirm it was the suspect's rental vehicle. The company said its cooperating with police.  

A large number of police vehicles could be seen near West Street and Chambers Street, which is near a community college, a high school and a few blocks north of the National Sept. 11 Memorial. 

Residents were cautioned to avoid the area and to expect many emergency personnel in the area. Nearby Stuyvesant High School was on lockdown as a precaution, the station reports.

The White House says President Donald Trump has been briefed on the incident.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president and New York native has been briefed by White House chief of staff John Kelly and "will be continually updated as more details are known."

Sanders says, "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected."

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