Three suspicious devices that turned out to be empty rice cookers were discovered Friday morning in downtown New York, prompting a brief scare as residents began their day. All the devices were ultimately deemed safe.
The first two were found at the Fulton Street subway complex, NYPD Chief of Transit Edward Delatorre said at a news conference. Two counterterrorism officers were on patrol there and were notified of a suspicious package, he said. Authorities responded and found two empty rice cookers, he said.
A third empty rice cooker was found at West 16th Street and 7th Avenue, where it had been put out with the garbage. It "may or may not be related" to the first two, Delatorre said.
All three rice cookers were the same model, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said
Police have reviewed video taken at the subway complex, Miller said. It shows a white man in his 20s or 30s with dark hair and a shopping cart leaving the two rice cookers at the scene, he said. Police later released pictures of the man on Twitter.
"Obviously we would like to speak to this person," Miller said, adding that he would not call the individual "a suspect" at this time.
Authorities are treating the investigation as if these were "hoax" devices, Miller said, "but again, we would have to identify him, find him, talk to him, because we need more information from him."
"I don't know what the deliberate act is," he added, "whether it was to create fear and alarm on the part of the public, or whether he was discarding items he was no longer interested in."
Even though all three devices were harmless, Miller praised the work of officers. "I think what you see here is a system that works," he said.
"Counterterrorism patrol in the subway system, where they're supposed to be, alert public, coming together, assessing the scene, bomb squad got here very quickly, was able to go through their procedures and determine that these items were not a physical threat," Miller said.
Friday's incident comes nearly three years after a pressure cooker bomb went off in the New York City neighborhood of Chelsea, injuring at least 30 people. A jury found Ahmad Rahimi guilty on eight federal charges in connection with the bombing, which authorities believed was the first jihadist terrorist attack on the city since September 11, 2001.