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Suicide male triggered antiterrorism alarms inside East River 4, 5 train tunnel


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A phony track worker triggered a terror scare inside a lower Manhattan subway tunnel Friday morning - but he turned out to be a despondent college student who wanted to kill himself by ingesting sodium cyanide, police said.

 

The 20-year-old Pace University sophomore told police he wanted to find a discreet alcove, mix the cyanide pellets with water and ingest it.

 

"He did not want to be found," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD's top spokesman. "He had no ID on him. He was looking for some isolated place in the system."

 

The pellets, commercially sold and typically used as a pesticide or to clean jewelry, can create toxic fumes when heated.

 

The suspect did have five flares in his backpack -- along with two liters of water and a quart can of cyanide - but police said the flares could not produce the heat needed to cause any damage.

 

"This was not a terrorist plot," Browne said. "We believe it was part of a plan for an individual to kill himself alone."

 

NYC Transit employees on a work train and assigned to pick up garbage spotted him at 5:30 a.m. in the tunnel connecting the Borough Hall station, in Brooklyn, and the Bowling Green station in lower Manhattan.

 

The suspect was dressed as a track worker - wearing a hard hat, reflective vest and yellow, knee-high boots.

 

But since he was in an area where no work was being done and had no work identification on him, the employees brought him aboard the train and headed to the Bowling Green station, where the NYPD has a permanent post as part of its counterterror efforts.

 

The student was then detained for questioning, and police found the chemical while searching his backpack.

 

The cyanide can, Browne said, was rushed to a transit police facility on Canal St., where police and investigators with a mobile Department of Environmental Protection lab donned Tyvec suits and opened the can.

 

The student later admitted to investigators with the Joint Terrorism Task Force that he was depressed and wanted to end his life - not kill anyone else.

 

It was not immediately clear what troubled the student, but a police source said he had been on medication.

 

He was still being questioned Friday morning, and investigators remained at his dorm building on John St., interviewing other students and search his room

 

Tom Torrelo, a Pace spokesman, said the student, who majors in political science and is from New Hampshire, was on the Dean's List in the fall of 2008.

 

A college student dressed as a laborer and carrying a backpack with cyanide pellets, roadway flares and water was taken into custody early Friday as he walked along the subway tracks in the tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan, the police said.

 

The discovery of the 20-year-old man about 5:30 a.m., walking alone in the dark tunnel under the East River, triggered antiterrorism alarms because the man was in a vulnerable spot precisely at the center of the authorities’ cataclysm projections.

 

But the man, a Pace University student, told investigators he was there to take his own life -– not anyone else’s — and the police said they believed his explanation.

 

Detectives from the Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed the man while Emergency Service Unit investigators searched for explosives or other devices along the tracks of the No. 4 and No. 5 train between Bowling Green station in Lower Manhattan and Borough Hall station in Brooklyn.

 

“He felt he might be able to find an isolated alcove where his body would not be discovered,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman. “He did not want anyone to know he killed himself.”

 

The man entered the tunnel at the Fulton Street Station and walked through to the middle of the tunnel, police said. It was not immediately clear whether any portion of the man’s journey had been captured by security cameras.

 

The episode underscored the vulnerability of a system that critics say is easy to enter and lacking adequate video surveillance. Of the 4,313 cameras that do exist in stations and tunnels, nearly half do not work, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials, a lapse that was highlighted after last month’s fatal stabbings on a No. 2 train.

 

The Police Department also maintains booths at the entrances of the subway system’s underwater tunnels, but the police could not immediately confirm that they were staffed at the time the man entered.

 

Transit employees on a work train first spotted the man on the tracks south of Bowling Green, wearing knee-high yellow boots, a reflective vest and a hard hat. They initially believed he was a fellow worker and took him aboard, only to discover he could not produce identification. They handed him over to the police at the Bowling Green station. The man was in custody Friday afternoon, with charges pending.

 

Investigators tested the chemicals at a mobile laboratory, confirming their initial belief that they were nonexplosive but toxic sodium cyanide pellets.

 

The police said they were certain the tools in the man’s backpack were not designed for any kind of detonation. The pellets he carried, which were in a one-quart sealed can with a manufacturer’s label, are available commercially to clean jewelry. Investigators thought he may have considered using the flares to heat the pellets and inhale the noxious fumes. However, the man said he ultimately decided it would be more effective to swallow them with water.

 

Norman I. Seabrook, chairman of the authority’s safety and security committee, called the incident “another wake-up call” that highlighted the crucial role played by alert employees in ensuring riders’ safety. As the authority has struggled with an $800 million budget shortfall, it has resorted to layoffs, leading some to become concerned about safety in unmanned stations.

 

“Had this not been caught, who knows what this young man would have done to harm himself,” Mr. Seabrook said.

 

The man lived in student housing in Lower Manhattan, the police said.

 

A former roommate of the man said he was antisocial and depressed, often sleeping all day and spending his last birthday by himself, watching three movies in a row in a theater. But he never mentioned violence.

 

“He was completely harmless,” said the former roommate, Harold Cuartas, 19, a marketing major.

 

Sources:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/04/30/2010-04-30_phony_track_worker_rigs_subway_terror_scare_in_bizarre_cyanide_suicide_try.html

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/man-found-with-cyanide-pills-in-subway-tunnel/

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Stupid people, if you are going to kill yourself, don't do it in our subway system, NYC is a big city & all the blame would have been on (MTA). They are lucky that there was a work train with a smart crew

Thats wild.My question is.Where did he get the transit gear from?

 

I've seen lots of people with that vest that don't work for the (MTA) so I'm not surprised:mad:

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But not wanting anyone to know? He's gotta be kidding me. The motorman is going to find out right after he/she kills him. Then, he'll be identified and his family will know...

 

By the sound of the article, he was going to kill himself in one of the alcoves in the tunnel, not by getting hit by a train. He would have been found eventually and it wouldn't have been pretty. Just be glad that crew saw him and brought him in for police questioning.

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Should have used a gun. Easily obtainable from local questionable neighborhood hangouts. Or rope. Rope is cheap. Gotta know how to make a good knot though...

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Should have used a gun. Easily obtainable from local questionable neighborhood hangouts. Or rope. Rope is cheap. Gotta know how to make a good knot though...

 

But rope takes too long! :(

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Of all the colleges, Pace University?

 

Now I'm ashamed to have said I went to school there.

 

With a statement like that, they were probably ashamed to have had you for a student. Suicides occur at every school, even Harvard.

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Hm.. he must've bought the items off Ebay.

 

Of all the colleges, Pace University?

 

Now I'm ashamed to have said I went to school there.

Nah not really. He's only one person out of thousands at Pace, that means he is not representative of Pace. If say, five hundred people Pace students messed around with the alarms, then that is something else.

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Thats wild.My question is.Where did he get the transit gear from?

 

It didn't have to be a transit vest. It couldve been any reflective vest and hard hat. Like in Sears they have cheap reflective vests for like construction work.

 

But still, why is every one choosing the subway to kill themselves?

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