Police seek motive in fiery fatal crash in upstate New York; no terror link found
By The Associated PressNews
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A man who died after crashing an SUV loaded with gas cans outside an upstate New York concert venue appeared to have been aiming at a pedestrian crossing, but investigators have found no evidence that the crash that killed two ride-hail passengers early on New Year’s Day was terror-related, police said Tuesday.
Rochester police Chief David Smith told a news conference that the suspect in the crash, tentatively identified as Michael Avery of the Syracuse area, may have suffered from undiagnosed mental health problems. Avery had spent days in the Rochester area and made at least a half-dozen purchases of gasoline and gas containers before the crash. But officials say the motive remains unknown.
“I have been getting inundated with questions as to why this individual would choose … Rochester, New York, why he would choose to do this on New Year’s Day, and why he would appear to target concert goers trying to have a great time to bring in the new year,” Mayor Malik Evans said. “Those are all questions that have been raised, and things that we just don’t have answers to yet.”
The crash happened shortly before 1 a.m. Monday as officers were directing traffic after a concert by the jam band let out at the Kodak Center theater complex.
The driver sped up, crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and appeared to have intentionally been driving toward a pedestrian crossing, according to police.
A Ford Expedition struck a Mitsubishi Outlander, sending both vehicles through a group of pedestrians that were in the crosswalk.
Two rear-seat passengers in the Outlander were killed. Avery died last night, according to Smith. At least nine pedestrians were injured, one with “life-altering” injuries. The rest were expected to make full recoveries, officials said.
The collision caused a blaze that took the fire department more than an hour to extinguish.
Police searched Avery’s hotel room after the crash and did not find a suicide note.
Police say Avery drove to the Rochester area on Wednesday and checked into a hotel, renting the Expedition two days later at the local airport. He went on a buying spree of gasoline and gasoline containers around the area on Saturday.
Officials said the FBI’s joint terrorism task force was involved in the investigation, which is usual in cases like this.
“We’ve uncovered no evidence of an ideology and no nexus to terrorism, either international or domestic so far in the investigation,” said Jeremy Bell, assistant special agent in charge of the Rochester office.
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