Prosecutor: Saipov Was Proud of Killings on Bike Trail

Defense lawyer agrees defendant is guilty but not about motive
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2023 5:27 PM CST
Trial Opens in Killings of 8 on New York City Bike Path
Defendant Sayfullo Saipov, second from left, sits at the defense table flanked by his defense attorneys during opening statements on Monday at Manhattan federal court in New York.   (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

A man charged with killing eight people along a New York City bike path five years ago left behind a "scene of destruction and horror" where "screams filled the air" before telling an FBI agent he was proud of the destruction he caused and wished the flag of his terrorist group could be put in his hospital room, a prosecutor said as a trial began Monday. Assistant US Attorney Alexander Li began his opening statement in Manhattan federal court by re-creating the terror attack that he said Sayfullo Saipov carried out on a sunny Halloween day in 2017 with a pickup truck he had rented and accelerated to 66 mph, the AP reports.

As the defendant fiddled occasionally with an electronic device at the defense table, the prosecutor turned briefly to cast a finger in his direction, saying the masked Saipov was to blame for the deaths of the eight people and permanent injuries to others. Later, Saipov's defense lawyer, David Patton, did not deny that his client killed eight people and seriously injured others. "It wasn't an accident. He did it intentionally," Patton said. “At the end of the day, there is no making sense of such a senseless act." The lawyer, though, said prosecutors were wrong to claim that Saipov did it to win favor with a terrorist group. Jurors should pay close attention to the evidence to see he was right, he told them. Patton said Saipov expected to die that day as a martyr to avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide.

Li described the scene in which mangled bicycles were strewn along a popular path while survivors "staggered around, wounded and dazed," searching for their family and friends. Among the victims were a family visiting from Belgium and 10 friends from Argentina. Saipov, 34, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and terrorism counts, was charged after he crashed his truck into a school bus, leaving one child with serious brain damage, Li said. He emerged from the truck with a pellet gun and a paintball gun and shouted an Arabic phrase, "Allahu akbar!"—"God is great!" He was shot by a police officer and arrested at the scene along the West Side Highway, per the AP. "He was proud of his attack. He told an FBI agent that his goal was to kill as many people as possible, the prosecutor said.

(More Sayfullo Saipov stories.)

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