By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York man accused of tossing a fake bomb into a police van in Times Square and later barricading himself inside a vehicle in an hours-long standoff was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation on Thursday after surrendering to police.
Hector Meneses, 52, gave up at about 8 a.m. after forcing police to shut down Columbus Circle, a busy shopping area and major traffic circle north of Times Square, through the morning rush hour, a New York Police Department spokesman said.
Meneses, who wore a red plastic helmet and was from the borough of Queens, was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.
He was accused of lobbing a makeshift device into a police van in tourist-packed Times Square at about 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday and then fleeing in a gold-colored SUV.
At about 2 a.m., police spotted his vehicle in the Columbus Circle area, which is packed with high-end retail stores. The man barricaded himself inside and said he had explosives inside the car.
Police from a hostage team negotiated with him for about six hours, New York Police Chief of Department James O’Neill told reporters.
Police said in a statement that no explosives were found. Meneses is accused of first-degree reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, first-degree false reporting of an incident and other charges, the statement said.
Immediately after the device was tossed into the van, a sergeant and an officer drove from the crowded area, then inspected the package. It contained a candle, cylindrical object and an electronic device with a flashing light wrapped in white cloth, police said.
“I was nervous, he was nervous,” Sergeant Hameed Armani said as he and Officer Peter Cybulski spoke to reporters. “I said, ‘If it happens, it happens, but I’m not going to stop here.'”
The bomb squad determined the device was a hoax.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Peter Cooney)