Trump Wants Death Penalty for NY Bike Path Attacker
U.S. President Donald Trump still thinks the Uzbek immigrant accused of running down eight people with a truck in New York City ought to get the death penalty, but is backing away from trying to send him to the U.S. detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Trump said Thursday he “would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer” than handling his trial through the U.S. court system.
“There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed,” Trump said of sending 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov to trial in New York. “Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”
Prosecutors on Wednesday accused Saipov of driving a rented truck down a crowded bicycle path in lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, running over bike riders and pedestrians.
The truck hit a school bus and Saipov jumped out of the damaged truck. He was waiving what turned out to be a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before he was shot in the stomach by a New York police officer.
Federal charges against him include providing material support to a terror group and destruction of motor vehicles.
Saipov asked law enforcement officers questioning him to display an Islamic State flag in his hospital room and said “he felt good about what he’d done,” according to the criminal complaint.
Trump first reacted strongly to those details in a Twitter post late Wednesday.
“NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” Trump wrote.
Planned for weeks
Saipov told investigators from his hospital bed that he had planned the attack for weeks and was inspired to carry it out after watching Islamic State videos on his cellphone.
According to the criminal complaint, one of two cellphones recovered from Saipov’s rental truck contained about 90 videos and about 3,800 images, many of them showing Islamic State propaganda and graphic acts of violence.
In particular, Saipov said he was motivated by a video in which Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi challenged “Muslims in the United States and elsewhere (about) what they were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.”
The second cellphone’s Internet browsing history offered investigators important clues about Saipov’s movements in the lead-up to the attack, revealing an October 4 search for the car rental in New Jersey, a search for Halloween and a car rental in New York on October 15, and another car rental search on October 18.
Islamic State has urged its followers to do exactly what Saipov is charged with doing — use cars and trucks as weapons and drive them along busy pedestrian areas to kill as many people as possible.
Deputy New York Police Commissioner John Miller told reporters notes linked to Saipov were found at the crime scene.
“The notes were handwritten in Arabic,” Miller said. “They had symbols and words. But the gist of the note was that the Islamic State would endure forever.”
Authorities have also linked Saipov to social media accounts that contain Islamic State-related material. The militant group has, so far, not claimed responsibility.
Uptick in vehicular attacks
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the attack was the “definition of terrorism. This was an attack on our values.”
He said there are no “additional or credible” threats against the city at this time and urged New Yorkers to “be strong, be proud, be resilient, show the whole world right now, we will not be moved by terror.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called Saipov “a depraved coward” and earlier told CNN that he was “radicalized domestically.”
Tuesday’s crime using a rented truck was similar to terrorist vehicle attacks carried out in other Western countries in recent years.
New America, a nonpartisan research center, said 15 vehicular attacks have been carried out since 2014, killing more than 140 people.
Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Wednesday the attack was ruthless and cruel, and that his government stood ready to use all means to assist in the investigation.
The New York Police Department said it will increase the number of officers throughout the city “out of an abundance of caution.”