The man who barricaded himself inside an SUV in Columbus Circle on Thursday morning has been brought into custody, ending an hours-long standoff in the busy district preceded by a bomb scare in the Crossroads of the World.
The 52-year-old man, identified as Hector Meneses, was taken to a hospital for evaluation hours after he barricaded himself in a Chrysler SUV, donned a red helmet and refused to communicate with authorities. Earlier, police say he had indicated there were explosives in his vehicle.
The NYPD said that there were no injuries in the standoff and that the man’s SUV was ultimately deemed safe by bomb squads. The standoff turned the morning commute for many straphangers upside down, as 1, A, B, C and D trains bypassed the Columbus Circle station for hours.
The drama began shortly before midnight, when police say Meneses, in a dark SUV, threw a suspicious object — later determined to be a candle attached to electrical components and wrapped in cloth — into an NYPD van parked in the heart of Times Square, touching off a bomb scare.
The two cops in the van, Sgt. Hameed Armani and officer Peter Cybulski, drove east to 46th Street because they didn’t know what the device was and wanted to get out of the heavily populated area. When they got to Sixth Avenue, they tossed the object onto the street. The bomb squad was called in and determined object to be a “hoax device” shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday.
About an hour later, police spotted Meneses in the Chrysler SUV and attempted to stop the vehicle in Columbus Circle. The man refused to get out of his vehicle and put on the helmet. That sparked a standoff with police, who surrounded the SUV with armored vehicles and officers in tactical gear.
Meneses has no prior arrests. He applied to be a cab driver with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission in April but is not a licensee, the agency said. Neighbors described the Elmhurst man as being nosy; they say he was involved in the community in some sort of advocacy role.
The two officers who drove the device out of Times Square were hailed as heroes at a news briefing following the standoff Thursday.
Armani, a Muslim who immigrated from Afghanistan and has been with the department for 10 years, said he and Cybulski said their prayers before driving away with the device.
“I looked around and saw kids and young people,” Armani said. “I said, ‘We’re gonna go, but I’m not gonna have anyone go with us.'”
“We knew what each other was thinking,” added Cybulski, a three-year cop with the NYPD. “We weren’t going to let anything happen in Times Square.”