The man who barricaded himself inside an SUV in Columbus Circle after tossing a hoax explosive through the open window of a police van in Times Square, sparking a bomb scare in the Crossroads of the World, told police during an hours-long standoff he had a bomb strapped to his chest and wanted to die.
The 52-year-old man, identified as Hector Meneses, locked himself in a Chrysler SUV, donned a red helmet and refused to communicate with authorities after indicating there were explosives in his vehicle, officials said.
The suspect "rolls up the window, puts his hands towards the glove compartment and says that he wants to die and has a bomb strapped to his vest," said Bill Aubry, chief of Manhattan detectives.
Aubry said the man put on the helmet and continued to act erratically, keeping one hand out of the line of vision of officers who surrounded him.
SWAT officers closed in. Eventually, he was taken into custody and brought to a hospital for evaluation.
The NYPD said that there were no injuries in the six-hour standoff and that the man's SUV was ultimately deemed safe by bomb squads. The standoff turned the morning commute for many straphangers upside down, as 1, A, B, C and D trains bypassed the Columbus Circle station for hours.
The drama began shortly before midnight, when police say Meneses, in a dark SUV, threw a suspicious object — later determined to be a candle attached to electrical components and wrapped in cloth — into an NYPD van parked in the heart of Times Square, touching off a bomb scare.
The two cops in the van, Sgt. Hameed Armani and officer Peter Cybulski, drove east to 46th Street because they didn't know what the device was and wanted to get out of the heavily populated area. When they got to Sixth Avenue, they tossed the object onto the street. The bomb squad was called in and determined object to be a "hoax device" shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday.
About an hour later, police spotted Meneses in the Chrysler SUV and attempted to stop the vehicle in Columbus Circle. The man refused to get out of his vehicle and put on the helmet. That sparked a standoff with police, who surrounded the SUV with armored vehicles and officers in tactical gear.
Meneses has no prior arrests. He applied to be a cab driver with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission in April but is not a licensee, the agency said. Neighbors described the Elmhurst man as being nosy; they say he was involved in the community in some sort of advocacy role.
Meneses was charged later Thursday with reckless endangerment, placing a false bomb, making a terroristic threat and menacing, among other crimes. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The two officers who drove the device out of Times Square were hailed as heroes at a news briefing following the standoff Thursday.
Armani, a Muslim who immigrated from Afghanistan and has been with the department for 10 years, said he and Cybulski said their prayers before driving away with the device.
"I looked around and saw kids and young people," Armani said. "I said, 'We're gonna go, but I'm not gonna have anyone go with us.'"
"We knew what each other was thinking," added Cybulski, a three-year cop with the NYPD. "We weren't going to let anything happen in Times Square."