COPS: Times Square Car Bomber Got the Wrong Fertilizer

'One-off' attacker suspected. NYPD Commissioner casts doubt on Taliban claim.

ByABC News
May 1, 2010, 9:51 PM

May 2, 2010— -- The would-be car-bomber who left an SUV loaded with propane and gas cans, fireworks and timing devices on a Times Square street also had more than 100 pounds of fertilizer, but not the kind that would explode, police said today.

Instead of ammonium nitrate, the kind of fertilizer used by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the person who abandoned the van on the crowded New York City street had a metal gun locker full of a harmless fertilizer, New York City Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.

While it is unknown who the potential bomber is, or the bomber's motive, officials told ABC, that if that person were not aware of the characteristics of the fertilizer it could point to the fact that the bomber did not know what he was doing.

Sources also told ABC News that the valves on the propane tanks were not open, which would have made it less likely that the gas inside would have ignited.

Police are looking for white male in his 40s who was seen leaving the area near the SUV and shedding a dark shirt, revealing a red shirt underneath, about a half block from where survellance cameras saw the vehicle entering Times Square at about 6:28 p.m. Saturday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

The video of the possible suspect was expected to be released later today.

The individual was looking around in a furtive manner, Kelly said, but he also stressed that the behavior could be totally innocent.

At a Sunday afternoon press conference, Kelly said police would be reviewing hundreds of hours of videotape, and that police had identified the owner of the green Nissan Pathfinder but had not yet spoken to them.

Detectives are in Pennsylvania today meeting with tourists who think they may have captured a suspect on video.

Kelly said "no evidence" supports the Pakistani Taliban's claim of responsibilty for the bombing, but he said investigators had not yet ruled out either domestic or international motives for the attempted attack.

"Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem and create casualties," Kelly said. "It was just a sober reminder that New York is clearly a target of people who want to come here and do us harm."

At about 2 p.m. Sunday, NYPD opened the 55-by-32-inch gun locker that was inside the SUV and found it contained eight bags of an unknown, fertilizer-like substance and an inverted pot with a "bird's nest" of wires.

There were three propane tanks next to the gun locker, two five-gallon jerry cans of gasoline, and a timing device, police officials said. There was no high-grade explosive, and the timing device was clocks attached to wires. Attached to the propane tanks were M88 fireworks, some of which had gone off, but without igniting the gas.

One alarm clock appeared to be wired into the gun locker. Another alarm clock was wired to a can with up to 30 M88 firecrackers resting between the cans of gasoline.

Kelly said it was too early to determine whether the device was crude or not.