A couple was killed and several other people were injured after a man crashed a vehicle filled with explosive material into another vehicle and plowed into a crowd outside of a New Year’s concert in Rochester, New York.
🚨 URGENT UPDATE: Shocking footage emerges from the incident in Rochester, New York. Take note of the Ford Explorer engulfed in flames and the individual seen exiting the vehicle. This alarming event raises concerns of a potential terror attack, marking the first in 2024! Are we… pic.twitter.com/TNvRgdkGCd
— Tony Lane 🇺🇸 (@TonyLaneNV) January 2, 2024
The suspect, who was later identified as 35-year-old Michael Avery, also died during the crash.
According to law enforcement, Avery filled his car with at least a dozen gas canisters and attempted to crash it into a massive crowd that was exiting a concert at the Kodak Center. Roughly 1,000 people had been leaving the concert after ringing in the New Year when the crash occurred at roughly 1 a.m. local time on Monday.
Before Avery’s vehicle could crash into the crowd, it plowed into a Mitsubishi Outlander that was exiting a nearby parking lot. The two passengers in the Mitsubishi, which was reportedly operating as an Uber transport at the time, were killed in the crash. They have since been identified as 28-year-old Justina Hughes and 29-year-old Joshua Orr.
The Uber driver was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Rochester Police Chief David Smith.
The two cars then plowed into the crowd outside of the concert, injuring at least five people. Three of the injured pedestrians were reportedly transported to the hospital, including one with life-threatening injuries.
After firefighters extinguished the flames, first responders found “at least a dozen gasoline canisters in and around the striking vehicle,” according to Smith.
“Based on the danger level associated with these, the Rochester police department bomb squad and the joint arson task force responded to the scene,” he added during the press conference.
He also confirmed that it appeared Avery was targeting the crowd, stating: “Avery sped up, crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic, and appears to have intentionally been driving towards the pedestrian crossing.”
Smith went on to explain that investigators believe Avery may have been suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues.
The FBI is currently investigating the incident, though officials have stated that they do not believe it was an act of terrorism.
Thus far, law enforcement has confirmed that Avery traveled on Wednesday from Syracuse to Rochester using his personal vehicle. He then rented the Ford SUV used in the attack from a Rochester airport car rental agency and went on to purchase gasoline and multiple gas canisters at several different stores throughout the day on Saturday.
Police have recovered a suicide note and journal from the hotel room that Avery rented in Rochester, and investigators are currently reviewing the journal to determine a motive for the attack. Authorities are also reportedly planning to search a storage unit belonging to Avery located in north Syracuse.