Rochester, New York — A deadly, violent crash outside an upstate New York entertainment center early in the new year is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, a law enforcement official briefed on the incident told ABC News. .
Two people were killed and five others were injured when a Ford Expedition crashed into a Mitsubishi Outlander as it exited a parking lot near the Kodak Center in Rochester, Rochester Police Chief David Smith said.
Smith said the crash occurred around 12:50 a.m. Monday near a crosswalk where concertgoers were leaving the venue.
“The impact of the collision caused both vehicles to pass through a group of pedestrians in the crosswalk and strike two other vehicles,” Smith said at a news conference Monday. “A large fire occurred in connection with the accident, and it took the Rochester Fire Department nearly an hour to extinguish it.”
The two occupants of the Mitsubishi Outlander were killed, and the driver was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the police chief said. The driver of the Ford Expedition was hospitalized with injuries that threatened his life, he said.
Three pedestrians were struck and taken to local hospitals, one with life-threatening injuries and two with non-life-threatening injuries, Smith said.
Further details about the victim have not been released.
First responders found at least 12 gasoline cans in and around the Ford Expedition after the fire was extinguished, the police chief said.
“We continue to work with our federal partners, including the FBI, to determine the exact cause of this crash,” Smith said.
According to sources close to the investigation, the investigation is being led by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Officials said they do not yet know whether this was a terrorist incident, but are investigating it as such until they know what happened and why.
Investigators are currently looking through the Ford Expedition driver’s device and social media, asking if they can piece together any additional information that could explain why there were so many gas cans there. Officials said they are talking to the family and their relatives.
The driver, a Syracuse native, drove his car to the Syracuse airport, where he rented a super large SUV, law enforcement officials confirmed to ABC News.
According to officials, the Mitsubishi Outlander involved in the accident was an Uber.
Local police and Rochester Mayor Malik Evans urged people to come forward with information.
“We know there are a lot of questions from the community related to this, and we’ll keep you tuned,” Evans said during Monday’s briefing. “Further information will be revealed as soon as possible.”
ABC News contributor Richard Frankel said the deadly incident was being considered as a “potential terrorism issue” until proven otherwise, as “numerous” gas canisters were found at the scene. He said that it was necessary to
“I don’t know what the issue is, but any matter where lives are lost and cannot be readily explained as an accident must be viewed as terrorism until it can be proven that it is not.” Terrorism “It’s going to be,” Frankel said.
Frankel, who previously led the FBI’s office in Buffalo and is an expert on terrorism investigations, said the case comes at a time when law enforcement is already concerned about how domestic politics and Middle East wars are fueling tensions at home. He said it happened at the right time.
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