ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
At least eight people were killed in Manhattan today after a man drove a rented truck onto a busy bicycle path. This happened near the World Trade Center Memorial. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio calls it a particularly cowardly act of terror. On the line with us now is Ayana Harry with WPIX in New York. Thank you for joining us.
AYANA HARRY: You're certainly welcome. How are you?
SHAPIRO: Fine. Take us through what you know about how this unfolded this afternoon.
HARRY: Sure. Well, I just happened to be with my photographer at City Hall, which is only about three blocks away. So we immediately just saw police cars racing past us. And our assignment desk began to hear other radio transmissions about a possible active shooter over on the West Side Highway. So we went immediately to the scene. So as soon as we got here, we spoke to eyewitnesses who said they heard at least four to five gunshots. And they also mentioned seeing a Home Depot truck driving down the bicycle lane for at least a block or two. And the eyewitnesses said that they saw this driver moving with speed and apparent intention...
SHAPIRO: It's sounds...
HARRY: ...So it did not...
SHAPIRO: It sounds from what the police have said as though the fatalities were caused by that vehicle and that what the eyewitnesses may have heard as gunshots were in fact from imitation firearms. Is that consistent with what you're seeing there?
HARRY: It - well, we do know that the two guns that the suspect had were both imitation guns. And so he may - so the gunshots may have been from him or from police.
SHAPIRO: We also understand that police shot the suspect and that he is in custody, that police are not searching for any other suspects. What else can you tell us about what's happening down there in Lower Manhattan right now?
HARRY: Well, at this point, police are - well, one, they have the task of just going through this very grisly scene. Again, eight people have been killed. We spoke with an eyewitness who watched the van run over these people. And the only word he could use to describe the scene and these bodies was mangled. So they have, you know - of course they want to treat the scene with dignity and identify these people. So a lot of that is happening. And you know, they're really keeping people away from it. And I also want to mention this happened right after school. Stuyvesant High School is right there, and so is the Borough of Manhattan Community College. So many of the eyewitnesses are teens, young people.
SHAPIRO: It is somewhat remarkable to think that with a death toll of at least eight people, this is the worst terror attack - if indeed it is a terror attack - in New York City since 9/11.
HARRY: Yes. And the mayor did say that this was a - they believe an act of terror at this point. But there was something that came out of a press briefing a short time ago that really stuck out to me - the fact that this took place on the West Side Highway near Houston Street during rush hour. So there were already police officers in that area. And those police officers were able to get this suspect into custody very quickly. So you know, we are accustomed to seeing police officers all over the city, especially during rush hour. And I mean, they were on the scene immediately, able to get the suspect into custody and also able to get help to those people who were badly injured, you know, possibly keeping the death toll down. At least 11 other people were taken to the hospital in serious condition.
SHAPIRO: There is a tweet from President Trump that says, in NYC - looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely - not in the USA. We also have a statement from the acting secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, noting that we have recently seen attacks like this one throughout the world. Can you contextualize this for us given what you're seeing in front of you?
HARRY: Yeah, I mean, there is definitely a sense of shock here. We did have an incident a couple of months ago where there was a driver going through Times Square. That was not an act of terror. That was someone who was, you know, possibly under the influence of synthetic marijuana.
SHAPIRO: All right.
HARRY: But he used his car as a weapon. And so, you know, pedestrians have been more alert since then, and...
SHAPIRO: Thank you very much.
HARRY: ...You know, it's just kind of another reminder.
SHAPIRO: That's Ayana Harry of WPIX in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.