Last night, New York City police were filmed in Times Square, gently ushering Black Lives Matter counter-protesters into the back of a black sedan, which very much resembled a police cruiser, with New York plates. The same car almost immediately plowed through a crowd of protesters. While the driver could easily have killed someone, no serious injuries have been reported.
A quick VIN search confirms that the car is a police series vehicle and was originally government-owned, with non-standard specs to match. “This auto is NOT an NYPD vehicle,” the NYPD tweeted this morning, contrary to rampant speculation.
In videos of the incident, the licence plate is legible, and only turns up results in two states — as a 15-year-old SUV in Virginia, or as a police interceptor-type Ford sedan in New York which remains an in-use make for the NYPD. However, a CARFAX report shows that it was sold — most likely at a police auction — in 2019, and again in 2020 as a salvage following rear end damage, both to private owners.
The NYPD refused to comment on the car or its driver, telling Gizmodo that an investigation is ongoing.
Car drives through protesters, Times Square, New York City, Thursday, September 3, 2020 pic.twitter.com/yMadwNYJSI
— DataInput (@datainput) September 4, 2020
An NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist that police had been escorting the car to a nearby parking lot, but that the driver had “missed the turn,” which still doesn’t explain why they rammed the gas pedal, drove through a mass of bodies, and disappeared somehow without being immediately apprehended in midtown Manhattan. An NYPD spokesperson also told Gizmodo that this was “not necessarily” vehicular assault, and “there’s a lot of factors” and “many different [camera] angles” still needed to assess the event.
While the car itself is no longer in use by law enforcement, it appears to have been purchased by an individual with more than a passing interest in cop paraphernalia. Gothamist found that the car’s salvage auction matches that of a car posted on August 5th to the Facebook page of Blue Lives Matter diehard Hakim Masjid Abdul Gibson, captioned: “Finally got it on the streets. This car is gorgeous. My push bar is on the way and the last two things that need to be installed are the centre console and spotlight.” A push bar — standard on most law enforcement vehicles — is installed for the express purpose of allowing the vehicle to initiate collisions with other cars (or in this case, peaceful protesters.)
Gibson — who ran the “Perception of Law Enforcement” page on Instagram, according to Gothamist — also posted video of last night’s Times Square protest on Facebook, writing “Someone tell me does this look anywhere near peaceful at all? Law Enforcement supporters being attacked by BLM protestors.” That page is no longer available; we’ve reached out to Instagram to determine if it was removed by the platform or the page owner.
Protesters had gathered in response to the mayor of Rochester’s call for the suspension of seven police officers involved in asphyxiating Daniel Prude to death in March.
Despite the information and footage which is circulating publicly, the vehicle has not been located by NYPD and no arrests have been made.