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Society

Self-Described “Nationalist” Suspected in NYC Bomb Hoax

NEW YORK — A self-described "American nationalist" suspected of leaving a hoax explosive device in a car at a New York City mall has turned himself in to police, a law enforcement official said.

Louis Shenker, 22, surrendered to officers around 3 a.m. Tuesday in Brooklyn, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity. No charges have been announced.

The police department confirmed that a man was in custody in connection with the incident, but did not release his name.

Shenker, who has described himself on social media as a "patriot" and a supporter of President Donald Trump, was previously arrested Dec. 30 for allegedly torching a poster attached to a police barricade in Manhattan. He was arraigned Jan. 1 and released without bail.

A message seeking comment was left for Shenker's lawyer in that case.

The Queens Place Mall in Elmhurst was evacuated around 7:30 a.m. Monday after a hoax device made to look like an explosive was found in a black Tesla parked on a ramp in a parking garage.

Police tweeted a photo showing an aerosol-type can, a roll of duct tape, wires and other items recovered from the car, which had a Nevada license plate. Another photo showed a Black Lives Matter poster among the items. Investigators were looking into whether the poster was left there as a diversion, possibly to make it seem like the movement was responsible for the hoax bomb.

Shenker has appeared on the online conspiracy show InfoWars and has filled his social media accounts with far-right views and buzzwords like "#MAGA" and "#StopTheSteal," noting his support of Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

Shenker was expelled from the University of Massachusetts Amherst amid a controversy over his views. His lawyers alleged he was a victim of anti-white and anti-Jewish attacks and that faculty members conspired to file false hate crimes charges against him because his views did not align with theirs.

A message seeking comment was left with the university's media relations office.

On a since-suspended Instagram account, Shenker mocked the practice of people including their preferred pronouns by listing his as "American / Patriot," and has posted online attacks on Black Lives Matter, pushed conspiracy theories and railed against wearing masks and lockdowns to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, a protest group accused Shenker of disrupting a Black Lives Matter vigil near Mayor Bill de Blasio's residence and turning it into a pro-Trump, anti-de Blasio "Chanukah Rave." A video posted to social media showed a man purported to be Shenker threatening to send the Proud Boys and Infowars host Alex Jones after a woman attending the vigil.

Police said the Tesla in Monday's incident was found parked halfway up the garage's circular ramp, positioned in the center of the roadway in a manner that prevented other vehicles from passing. Police said a husky found in the trunk of the car appeared to be OK.

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