Columbus Circle standoff with man suspected of tossing device into NYPD van ends

COLUMBUS CIRCLE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Following a multi-hour standoff, police took into custody a man who had been sitting in a parked SUV in Columbus Circle. He is believed to be linked to a suspicious package thrown into an NYPD vehicle in Times Square hours earlier.

The man was sitting in a Chrysler Aspen, on the south side of Columbus Circle, starting at 2 a.m. Thursday. He was removed around 8 a.m.

Police identified the man as Hector Meneses, 52, of Elmhurst. He was taken into custody without incident and was taken to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He is being treated as an emotionally disturbed person.

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According to the New York City Police Department, Meneses, who is Columbian-born, told police he had explosives strapped to himself. "I have a bomb strapped to me and I want to die," he was quoted by police as saying.

He has no psychiatric history, and neighbors said he was a good man who gets involved in the community, police said. His last employment was as a cab driver and police said he had a TLC license.

Nineteen LED lights were recovered from his vehicle. He apparently attempted to simulate a pressure cooker bomb, but nothing found in the vehicle was similar to an improvised explosive device, police said.

Meneses was initially spotted wearing a red helmet and sunglasses, and was moving around in the vehicle. NYPD hostage negotiators, SWAT teams, K-9 units and bomb squads responded, closing Columbus Circle to pedestrians and cars. They established tactical positions around the SUV and sent in a robot to get a closer look.

The 59th St-Columbus Circle subway station service was restored around 9 a.m. Thursday. after subways bypassed the station for most of the morning. Roads in the area were closed.

Police were pursuing the man because they believed he had thrown a suspicious package into an NYPD van parked in Times Square hours earlier.

The electronic device landed on the dashboard of the van, parked at West 46th and Seventh Avenue, just before 11:35 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said a man in a gold-colored SUV had tossed it through the window of their marked NYPD van, which was occupied by a uniformed sergeant and a police officer, then fled in the SUV.

The scare prompted a citywide search for the SUV, eventually found, police said, in Columbus Circle.
The package was wrapped up and making some kind of a noise. A sergeant in the NYPD van, assigned to the Times Square Unit, immediately drove out of Times Square.

Hear from Sgt. Hameed Armani and officer Peter Cybulski, who drove the explosive device away from Times Square:

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NYPD news conference

He arrived on Sixth Avenue, where he parked on the north side of the street, then the package was placed on the ground, away from pedestrians and buildings.

The officer and his partner started backing pedestrians away from the suspicious package as the NYPD Bomb Squad was called. Then they retreated to a safe area.

The package was later determined by the bomb squad to be an apparent hoax device. After examining the package, it was found to be a candle, a cylindrical object with an electrical component with a flashing led light, all wrapped in a white cloth.

The full NYPD briefing after the standoff ended:

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NYPD Commissioner Bratton and officials hold briefing following the Columbus Circle standoff

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