New York Police gather at the scene where a rental truck was stopped and the driver arrested, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK — A man driving a U-Haul truck swerved onto sidewalks and plowed into cyclists and scooter riders in New York City on Monday, killing one person and injuring eight others before police were able to pin the careening vehicle against a building following a mileslong pursuit through Brooklyn.
The driver was arrested and taken to a police station. His son identified him as Weng Sor, 62, a troubled man with a history of harmful behavior and stints behind bars.
The mayhem unfolded over a harrowing 48 minutes as the truck tore through Brooklyn’s bustling Bay Ridge neighborhood, hitting people at several points along the way before veering on and off a highway as police gave chase.
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell described it as a “violent rampage,” but said there was no evidence of “terrorism involvement.”
The nine people struck by the vehicle ranged in age from 30 to 66. All were men. One of the injured people was a police officer.
The 44-year-old man who was killed suffered a head injury when he was hit by the truck roughly a half hour after it struck the first victim, the police department said in a statement.
The truck’s winding route ended when a police cruiser cut it off and blocked it against a building near the entrance to a tunnel leading from Brooklyn to Manhattan, more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) from where the chase began.
Weng Sor’s son, Stephen Sor, 30, told The Associated Press that his father had a history of mental illness and, until recently, was living in Las Vegas, where records show he was convicted and served time for multiple acts of violence, including stabbing his own brother.
“Very frequently he’ll choose to skip out on his medications and do something like this,” Stephen Sor said in an interview outside his Brooklyn home. “This isn’t the first time he’s been arrested. It’s not the first time he’s gone to jail.”
The destruction shattered the late-morning routine and immediately evoked memories of other vehicle assaults on bikers and pedestrians in the crowded city, including a terrorist’s deadly 2017 attack that killed eight people on a Manhattan bike path and a disturbed motorist’s rampage through Times Square the same year that killed one and injured 20.
The truck struck the first victim at 10:17 a.m., police said, and other reports followed as the vehicle moved through a busy section of Brooklyn, just north of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge along New York Harbor.
The neighborhood, a melting pot of immigrants from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, is known as the setting of “Saturday Night Fever,” and parts of TV’s “Blue Bloods.” Each fall, it hosts a leg of the New York City Marathon.
Katherine Aronova said she saw the U-Haul run a red light, hit a delivery worker on an e-bike in the middle of the road and drag him a short distance.
“His face was covered with blood. He was unconscious,” and his shoes were scattered on the sidewalk, Aronova said. “The electric bicycle was destroyed completely.”
A security camera captured the truck clipping a scooter, then swerving onto a sidewalk and nearly plowing into a pedestrian, who dived to safety just in time. A police patrol car then followed the truck down the sidewalk at high speed.
“I was in shock and didn’t know what was happening until I saw the police patrol was chasing it,” a witness, Andrea Vasquez, said in Spanish. “Thank God that man saved himself,” she added of the person who narrowly escaped.
After the chase ended, authorities examined the vehicle to make sure it didn’t contain explosives.
Sor rented the truck in West Palm Beach, Florida on Feb. 1 and was due to return it there on March 3, U-Haul spokesperson Jeff Lockridge said. He provided a valid driver’s license and paid for a 30-day rental in advance. U-Haul had no record of Sor previously renting from the company, Lockridge said.
Stephen Sor said he was surprised when Weng Sor showed up in Brooklyn in the middle of the night about a week ago. He said they didn’t speak often and described their relationship as “rocky.”
“I try to just distance, as long as he leaves us alone,” Stephen Sor said.
In 2015, Weng Sor stabbed his brother in Las Vegas and served about 17 months in a Nevada prison, according to court and prison records. In 2020, he stabbed someone in the arm and chest with a knife and was sentenced to 364 days in county jail, with about 10 months of time already served.
Before pleading guilty in that case, Sor underwent several months of evaluations at state psychiatric facilities until he was found competent to face charges, court records show. The records don’t list a possible diagnosis, but note that Sor was placed on medications.
In an earlier Nevada case, Sor was ordered to undergo counseling and perform community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2005. The judge noted at the time that Sor was moving to New York and ordered him to submit to a mental health evaluation once there.
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