Multiple dead, injured after truck veers into NYC bike path in 'act of terror'

Emergency personnel transport a man on a stretcher after a motorist drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial and struck several people Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A man driving a rented Home Depot van veered into a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial Tuesday, mowing down several people and colliding with other vehicles before exiting the truck screaming and holding what appeared to be two guns, police and witnesses said.

The violent incident left at least eight dead and even more injured, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press briefing. He urged New Yorkers to "be vigilant."

"Let me be clear -- this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror," he said. Noting there was no evidence of a larger plot, he called the incident a "lone wolf attack."

The 29-year-old driver, identified as Sayfullo Saipov, was shot by police before being taken into custody. His condition was not immediately disclosed.

Officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity said he is from Uzbekistan and came to the U.S. legally in 2010. He has a Florida driver's license but may have been staying in New Jersey, they said.

Officials say when the driver exited the truck, he yelled "God is great" in Arabic. As a result, New York Police Department and FBI officials investigating the incident have designated it a terrorist attack, New York Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said.

Cities around the globe have been on alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks in recent months and years.

Police said the vehicle, a rented Home Depot truck, entered the bike path on West Street a few blocks from the World Trade Center memorial and struck at least 15 people, leaving mangled bicycles behind. At least two bodies could be seen lying on the path beneath tarps.

The truck also slammed into a small yellow school bus, injuring two adults and two children. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said.

After the incident, a note was found hand-written in a foreign language, possibly Arabic. The contents are being investigated, but the officials say the document supported the belief the act was terrorism.

According to the White House, President Donald Trump -- a New York native -- has been briefed on the incident by the White House chief of staff. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected."

Some social media users gave graphic accounts of the van driver entering the bike path before mowing over bikers and pedestrians. He then struck another car, rammed into a school bus, exited the vehicle and began to fire what appeared to be a gun, according to some social media reports.

The incident occured along the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan near 3 p.m. Eastern. The bike path ran near West Street and Chambers Street, which is in close proximity to a community college, a high school and the National Sept. 11 Memorial.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke has been briefed on the apparent act of terrorism that occurred this evening in New York City, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

"The Department is closely monitoring the situation and working with our federal, state and local partners in responding to and investigating this tragedy," the department said. "We are referring all questions about the investigation to the FBI and the New York Police Department."

A spokesman for Blasio told WABC that the mayor was quickly briefed on the incident. As of 3:48 p.m. Eastern, de Blasio was headed to the scene, according to his office's official Twitter account.

Snapchat users captured the violent incident in photos and videos posted to the social media platform. Footage shows first responders rushing to the scene and crowds of passerby milling around.

“From there a whole bunch of customers ran by me saying he had a gun," a witness told CNN. "I did not see a gun or blood.

“He looked pretty bad without looking for bleeding or anything like that. From what I saw at the moment, I didn’t see him hit anybody; All I heard was the impact of the crash and I turned around and saw the white pick-up truck.”

"Automatically, I know something is wrong," witness Eugene Duffy told CNN. "I hear nine to 10 gunshots.

"In this area, I thought it was terrorists. I guess with everything going on in the world, I guess terrorist attack."

Another witness told CNN that the scene was "definite chaos."

"It was right when the school was getting out; there was lots of kids," the witness said. "A lot of people seemed scared."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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