A T-shirt vendor spotted a smoking SUV and alerted some quick-acting cops, who, in turn, called in the Fire Department and the bomb squad. Thanks to them, a terrorist attack was thwarted Saturday in New York City’s busy Times Square:
The T-shirt vendor – a Vietnam vet – told Officer Wayne Rhatigan there was smoke coming from a Nissan SUV on the southwest corner of 45th St. and Broadway about 6:30 p.m., sources said.
Rhatigan approached the car, saw the smoke and sprang into action.
“I did a lap around the vehicle. The inside was smoking,” Rhatigan told the Daily News. “I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second.”
He alerted two rookie female cops patrolling the area. Together, they pushed hundreds of people away from the scene as they called for backup, he said.
The Fire Department and bomb squad rushed to the scene.
What they found was stunning: a running SUV packed with three propane tanks, two red 5-gallon plastic jugs of gasoline, a clock, electrical components and a canister of gunpowder, police sources said.
“We are very lucky,” Mayor Bloomberg said at an early morning press conference at the scene, still in the tuxedo and red bow tie he wore to the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington. “Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”
The Pakistani Taliban is claiming credit. Some suspect a “South Park” connection, since the bomb was located near Viacom, the production company that owns the satirical cartoon that enraged Muslims for presenting Muhammed in a bear suit. A white male was caught on tape acting “furtively” around the Nissan Pathfinder. Authorities have identified the owner of the vehicle. As of now, the perpetrators are unknown.