Sgt. Hameed Armani, who immigrated from Afghanistan 10 years ago, and officer Peter Cybulski, were in an NYPD van near Duffy Square in Times Square, just before 11:35 p.m. Wednesday. Both are assigned to the Times Square Unit.
An SUV went by and a man inside tossed a suspicious, wrapped package onto the van's dashboard. The officers noticed it was making a noise.
"I looked around, saw a lot of people, a lot of kids. We're gonna go, but we're not gonna take a lot of people with us," said Hamani recounting the moment at a news conference later.
He said they both said prayers while driving to a less crowded place.
"We come to work quite literally not knowing what's going to be thrown at us," said Cybulski. "We've worked together two and a half years now, get along really well, and we both knew what each other was thinking. We were scared, we thought we were gone. But we weren't going to put others in danger."
Armani, who was driving, immediately hit the gas, and he and Cybulski left Times Square.
Armani sped east down West 45th Street until he got to Sixth Avenue, where he parked on the north side of the street.
He and Cybulski, who has been on the force for two years, jumped out of the van, and Armani placed the package on the ground away from pedestrians and building lines.
The two started backing pedestrians away from the suspicious package as the New York City Police Department Bomb Squad was called. They then retreated to a safe area.
The package was actually a red candle and a battery-operated lantern, wrapped in tin foil and a white cloth.
The scare prompted a citywide search for the SUV, which was later part of a standoff with police in Columbus Circle. The driver, Hector Meneses, 52, of Elmhurst, Queens, was taken into custody.
News conference with Armani and Cybulski: