Witness: 2 teens fled Starbucks blast

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May 27, 2009 12:52:58 PM PDT
Investigators say a witness saw two teenagers flee the scene after a makeshift explosive shattered a window at a Starbucks in New York City. Police said Wednesday that the device was made from a small plastic water bottle stuffed with gunpowder or a similar substance.

CLICK HERE to see images from the scene!

CLICK HERE to watch Jim Dolan's report!

It had a metal cap with a hole in it for a fuse.

The blast happened on Manhattan's Upper East Side early Monday.

Police believe someone put the explosive under a bench outside the coffee shop.

No security video so far shows any suspects, and no one has taken responsibility. But the witness has told police he saw the teens run eastward.

Points from Wednesday's news conference.

  • Investigators have determined that the container used in the Starbucks bombing was a 6- to 10-ounce white plastic bottle, with a metal cap, bound in black tape, containing several ounces of low explosive powder ? such as that used in fireworks or ammunition.
  • The cap, about an inch-and-a-half to two inches in diameter, is bigger than one for a conventional soda or water bottle. It has a rolled rim at the bottom, and hash-mark ridges at the top for grip, like those on a lid for a peanut-butter jar, but not as big. Partial lettering legible on the cap begins with capital letters, "V," "E," and possibly "T"
  • The first three letters are white on a blue field, followed by an unknown number of characters of blue letters on a white field.
  • A pyrotechnic fuse, like those used with fireworks, was inserted in a hole in the cap.
  • The bottle contained low-explosive powder and the fuse was hand-lit.
  • Low- explosive powder is used in ammunition and fireworks. It has to be contained, in a bullet shell, for example, in order to explode. If you ignited the same amount of powder outside of its container, it would harmlessly ignite and cause smoke.
  • By contrast, the more powerful high explosives such as C-4, dynamite and nitro detonate without being contained.
  • We have found a good eyewitness who described two young men, who the witness believes are teenagers ? both white, one with blond hair in a red shirt and the other with brown hair and grey shirt ? approaching the Starbucks on the corner of East 92nd Street and 3rd Avenue.
  • Moments after the blast the two were seen by the same eye witness fleeing eastbound on 92nd Street toward 2nd Avenue.
  • No video of the incident has been found to date, and none of the hours of video from the vicinity that have been reviewed contain images of individuals connected with the explosion.

    Similarities to previous bombings:

  • Low-explosive powder was used in the UK (May 2005) and Mexican Consulate (October 2007) bombings, the Times Square bombing (March 2008), and at Starbucks.
  • In the bombing of the recruiting station at Times Square, black powder was used ? a low explosive powder similar to the flash powder used in fireworks, but more stable.
  • In the bombing of the British consulate, low explosives known as "pyrodex" were used. It is very similar to black powder, but used as a substitute by muzzle-loading enthusiasts, because it burns cleaner, leaving less residue than does black powder in their rifles.
  • In the bombing of the Mexican consulate, lab analysis confirmed that low explosive powder was used, and may have been pyrodex, black powder, or flash powder, used in fireworks.
  • Each of the incidents occurred between 0300 and 0430 hrs.
  • No one has taken responsibility for the bombings. (However, there was graffiti of the anarchist symbol 'A' on the wall of the Mexican consulate.)
  • While Starbucks has been targeted by radicals both in the United States and Canada, we have not established any connection at this point between those incidents and this latest one.


  • In all three previous attacks, a lone individual using a bicycle was captured on video tape and/or by eyewitnesses in the immediate vicinity of the bombing. In the UK Consulate attack, the suspect was captured on video throwing grenades with lighted fuses at the front of the building.
  • However in this incident, no bicycle was seen in the immediate vicinity, and there appears to be two suspects instead of one.
  • The devices were identical in the bombings of the UK and Mexican consulates, but different in Times Square and at Starbucks.