Police: Thief turned in car with chemicals

July 4, 2008 4:47:50 PM PDT
A career criminal helped police recover a van with canisters of potentially dangerous chemicals inside that was abandoned in the Greenwood Heights section of Brooklyn. Police say the van, a forgotten remnant of a closed criminal case, was left parked at Second Avenue and 53rd Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for months.

Its owner was previously arrested for making threats against another person, possibly with the intent to use the chemicals, according to authorities. They say the case was not terror-related, and when police arrested the suspect, the van remained parked on the street.

A thief, well-knowm to the police department, reportedly stumbled onto the van sometime after 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Inside, he spotted styrafoam cups, wires and switches, and canisters containing an unknown chemical, police said.

Concerned that it was parked in a populated neighborhood, complete with a small Muslim school and a ballet studio, the career criminal did what he considered "the right thing." He drove the van to a desolate industrial neighborhood, where he parked it behind a Costco on 37th Street and the waterfront, near little-used piers.

He called a police officer he knew from a prior arrest and told him where to find it.

Police arrived, quickly closing numerous streets in the neighborhood for hours as they looked through the van. Dozens of police officers, FBI agents, and even Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to the scene.

The chemicals were described as incindiary, although were no detonation devices attached to the canisters.

The canisters were removed to a Department of Environmental Protection storage facility to be tested. Meanwhile, authorities towed the van as evidence. It had Delaware plates issued to another vehicle.

The original threat suspect remained in custody on the prior case, and no additional charges were immediately filed.