NEW YORK - The New York City Police Department says a lengthy standoff in Columbus Circle came to an end Thursday morning with one person in custody who investigators say is believed to have thrown a suspicious object into a police van in one of the city's busiest tourist spots.
The department says Hector Meneses, 52, of Queens was removed from his SUV "without incident".
It all began around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday near 46th Street and Sixth Avenue near Times Square. That's when police say Meneses tossed the object into the open window of the police van.
It was later described by police as a red candle wrapped in a white t-shirt wrapped in tin foil with two LED solar garden lights attached.
Police say an NYPD sergeant and officer who were inside the van immediately drove away from Times Square.
"We both looked at each other, knew exactly what each other was thinking without having to say it. Like my partner said, very crowded area, multiple children around, multiple families around," said NYPD Officer Peter Cybulski.
"At 30 seconds or a minute, we both said our prayers. We thought this is it, we're not going to make it. But I'm glad no one else is gonig to get hurt," said NYPD Sergeant Hameed Armani.
"They put their own lives totally at risk to save the lives of hundreds of those tourists," added Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
The bomb squad was called in to assess the device and was determined to be of no threat.
Police say officers then began combing over video surveillance of the vehicle and eventually spotted the suspect around 2:15 a.m. in Columbus Circle, where a standoff began.
Investigators say when officers approached the vehicle at the corner of Columbus Circle and Broadway the suspect rolled up the window and put his hand toward the glove compartment saying he wants to die and that he has a bomb strapped to his vest.
Later on, police say he put on a red plastic construction helmet and continued to display "erradic behavior".
The NYPD's Emergency Service Unit used a robot equipped with a camera to see inside while police tried to establish and maintain a dialogue with the suspect.
He was eventually taken into custody around 7:45 a.m. and brought to a local hospital for evaluation.
"Once we used the pepper spray, he did become violent, and we took him out he didn't come out voluntarily but we were able to extricate him and take him into custody with no injury," said NYPD Deputy Chief Vincent Giordano.
Police say the suspect lives in Elmhurst and has no criminal record or documented history of mental illness.
Police say a total of 19 LED lights as well as a cooking pot with cap, wires and a remote control were found inside the suspect's vehicle.
Traffic that was closed between West 57th to West 61st Street and Fifth Avenue to Ninth Avenue have since reopened.
The MTA says 1, A, B, C, and D trains that were bypassing 59th St-Columbus Circle in both directions have resumed normal service but commuters should expect residual delays.
For the latest transit updates, visit mta.info.