A person of interest is now in custody in connection with the rice cooker scare that led to massive transit delays, and street closures in Manhattan.
The New York City Police Department is now questioning the man they say is seen on video leaving two empty rice cookers in a Manhattan subway station Friday morning, sparking a full emergency response and evacuation and bringing the morning commute to a halt on nearly a dozen lines.
"It was just madness, pandemonium, a lot of people were freaking out," one commuter said. "Obviously no one knows what's truly going on here."
The two suspicious devices were found around 7 a.m. at the Fulton Street subway station in lower Manhattan. A third rice cooker was found later in the morning on a sidewalk in Chelsea. However, police didn't confirm if the suspect placed that one. A possible motive is not confirmed at this time.
THE PERSON OF INTEREST
In a Facebook post Friday evening, the Logan County Sheriff's Office identified the suspect, Larry Kenton Griffin II, of Bruno, West Virginia, as a person of interest. Larry Griffin was arrested early this morning at an apartment building in the Bronx. He was identified by police in West Virginia, where they say there's an open warrant out for his arrest for a number of crimes, including showing obscene videos to a minor.
Griffin has been arrested by the Logan County Sheriff’s Department at least three times within the past eight years, the office said, on charges that include possession of a controlled substance and use of obscene material to seduce a minor. There is an active warrant for Griffin's arrest that a judge issued March 18 because he missed drug screenings as part of his pre-trial bond supervision, the Logan County Sheriff’s Department said.
RICE COOKERS DEEMED SAFE
The NYPD said bomb squad officers determined the rice cookers did not contain explosives.
No injuries were reported.
The NYPD says the video shows the man taking the two rice cookers out of a shopping cart and placing them on the station's floor.
The third rice cooker was found next to a garbage can on 16th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Police say all three rice cookers are the same make and model.
PANIC FOR COMMUTERS
The station was evacuated, traffic outside diverted, and the MTA had trains on the eight lines serving the station to bypass the stop, causing delays across large parts of the system at the height of the morning rush.
"This is not the first time this has happened, if you recall," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with WCBS NewsRadio 880. "We have had similar-type devices found, also which were not wired but which were very suspicious-looking."
The items did cause alarm because they recalled pressure cookers that were turned into explosive devices on West 23rd Street in Manhattan three years ago, and at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
"I mean, I'm scared, but what can we do? It's everyday life," a construction worker said near the scene Friday.
Police said the suspect pushed a shopping cart in the station, placed the two rice cookers there, and then left.
"I don't know what the deliberate act is, whether it was to create fear and alarm on the part of the public, or whether he was discarding items that he was no longer interested in," said John Miller, the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism at the NYPD. "To get there, we're going to have to identify him and interview him, which I'm confident we will."
The Fulton Street station was reopened shortly after 10:30 a.m. and regular train service resumed.
The MTA apologized to customers for the service disruption, but officials say it is imperative in situations like these to take incidents seriously.
"This just shows the benefit of everyone working together. We have around six million riders on the subway every day, and that's six million pairs of eyes and ears between us, if we work together," New York City Transit President Andy Byford said. "If you see something, say something. We can keep New York safe."