The officers never hesitated.
When a man tossed a device believed to be an explosive in the marked van of two New York City Police Department officers late Wednesday night, the officers reacted with only the safety of those around them in mind. As the suspect fled in a vehicle, officer Peter Cybulski and Sgt. Hameed Armani quickly drove their van out of the busy Times Square area to limit the potential harm, according to the NYPD.
Mr. Cybulski, a 2009 Riverhead High School graduate, and Sgt. Armani were being praised as heroes Thursday morning after the incident ended without harm and the suspect in custody. The device tossed in the vehicle turned out to be a hoax, the NYPD said, and the suspect was arrested after a standoff in Columbus Circle.
“We knew what each other was thinking,” Mr. Cybulski, 24, said at a press conference Thursday morning, according to the NYPD. “We weren’t going to let anything happen in Times Square.”
Mr. Cybulski was walking in to meet personally with NYPD Commissioner William Bratton this afternoon, he said when reached for comment by the News-Review.
His mother, June Cybulski, said she regularly receives texts from her son while he’s at work to let her know he’s OK.
“I’m so proud of him and so so thankful to God it wasn’t a real bomb,” she said. “He’s 24. This is the life he’s chosen, but, I’ll tell you, mom and dad panic constantly.”
“These two officers are heroes of the NYPD, heroes of New York City,” Commissioner Bratton said, according to the NYPD.
At 7:45 a.m., a 52-year-old man was taken into custody in connection with the incident after the standoff when police surrounded the vehicle in Columbus Circle, the NYPD said. Police attempted to negotiate with the man, who stated that he had explosives in the vehicle. No explosives were ultimately found.
The man was identified as Hector Meneses, according to published reports. The New York Daily News reported Mr. Meneses said during the standoff that he had a bomb strapped to his chest and wanted to die.
When the device landed in the rear seat of the officers’ van, Mr. Cybulski immediately thought it was a bomb.
“Cybulski goes, ‘Boss, this is bomb,’ ” Sgt. Armani said, according to the Daily News. “The light went off, started blinking. I was like, ‘We’re gonna go, but I’m not going to have anybody else go with us.’ ”
The incident comes at a time of heightened awareness of police safety after several high-profile attacks on officers around the country.
“It’s so wonderful to hear good news and something positive with police,” Ms. Cybulski said.
Brittany Rocco, 21, of Flanders said she received a text around 1 a.m. from Mr. Cybulski, her boyfriend, telling her to watch the news and to alert her that he was OK.
“It was pretty terrifying,” she said.
She still didn’t know any details of what had really happened until later in the morning when she got a chance to speak with him on the phone, she said.
“It was relieving to hear his voice and know he’s OK,” she said.
When she asks her boyfriend why he still wants to continue in this dangerous line of work, he answers the same way, she said.
“He likes helping people,” she said, “and wants to protect people who have nothing to do with the craziness that’s going on in the world.”
Photo: NYPD Commissioner William Bratton shakes the hand of officer Peter Cybulski, a 2009 Riverhead graduate, Thursday afternoon at a press conference. (Credit: NYPD)