• Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

No evidence of terrorism in Rochester, N.Y., crash that left 2 dead and multiple injured, police say

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There’s no evidence of terrorism in the fiery New Year’s Day crash that saw the driver of an SUV stashed with gas canisters speed toward pedestrians and collide with a car, killing two people and injuring several more after a concert in Rochester, New York, police said.

The suspect, identified as Michael Avery, 35, of the Syracuse area, died Monday night from injuries sustained in the crash, officials said.

Rochester Police Chief David M. Smith said in an update Tuesday that Avery’s motive is not clear and urged the public to come forward with information.

However, authorities have spoken with Avery’s family and they believed he “may have been suffering from possible undiagnosed mental health issues,” Smith said.

“We have not recovered any information that his actions were motivated by any form of political or social biases,” he added, noting it is believed Avery acted alone.

The crash happened shortly before 1 a.m. as police officers were directing traffic after a concert by the band “moe” at the Kodak Center theater complex, Rochester police previously said.

At 12:52 a.m., Avery drove the Ford Expedition on West Ridge Road toward where police officers were stopping traffic to allow pedestrians to cross.

“At this time, Avery sped up, crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and appears to have intentionally been driving towards the pedestrian crossing,” Smith said. 

That’s when he crashed into the Outlander, sending both vehicles “through a group of pedestrians that were in the crosswalk,” police said in a statement. The two passengers in the Outlander were killed and the driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.

The collision caused an explosion and a large blaze that took the fire department more than an hour to extinguish.

Two people were killed and others were seriously injured in a fiery crash outside the Kodak Center in Rochester, N.Y., on Jan. 1., 2024.
Two people were killed and others were seriously injured in a fiery crash outside the Kodak Center in Rochester, N.Y., on Jan. 1., 2024.WHEC

Once the flames were doused, firefighters “located at least a dozen gasoline canisters in and around” the Expedition, the police statement said. That prompted police to bring in an arson team and alert the FBI, police said.

The FBI Buffalo Field Office confirmed in a statement that the agency is assisting the Rochester Police Department in the investigation.

Police initially said three pedestrians were struck and hospitalized. That number rose to nine pedestrians, Smith said Tuesday, noting one pedestrian suffered life-altering injuries, and the rest should make full recoveries.

He added that Avery had traveled to Rochester in his personal vehicle on or about Dec. 27 and checked into the WoodSpring Suites in Greece, a suburb of Rochester.

Two days later, Smith said, Avery rented a Ford Expedition from a car rental agency at the Rochester airport and left his personal car in the airport parking garage. Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Dec. 30, he made “at least half a dozen purchases of gasoline and gas containers at different locations” throughout Monroe and Ontario counties. 

A search warrant was executed on Avery’s hotel room Monday and no suicide note was recovered, Smith said. Another was executed on his personal vehicle, which is still being searched and has not yielded any insight into a motive so far. 

Investigators asked witnesses or anyone with information to reach out to police. Rochester is about 340 miles northwest of Manhattan.

The band “moe” said in a statement late Monday the fiery crash left them “in profound shock and sadness.”

“On a night that was meant for celebration and togetherness, we are faced instead with tragedy that defies understanding,” the statement said. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives, and our thoughts are with those who were injured.”

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said a statement: My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims who were killed in the fiery crash that occurred on West Ridge Road last night. I pray for the victims who are still fighting for their lives and whose who are working to recover.”

He asked for patience as investigators piece together the details of the crash and asked for anyone with information to contact 911. 

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the Rochester crash, according to a White House official.

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