Photo: AP Photo/Louis Lanzano
ORIGINAL POST 12:10 pm: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a hastily-arranged press conference on Sunday night to announce the arrest of Jose Pimentel, an American influenced by the ideology of al-Qaeda who allegedly plotted to blow up police cars and post offices.The press conference became a mutual admiration society for the city’s beleaguered public servants. Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly are under fire for their response to the Occupy Wall Street protests, while Vance is still working in the shadow of his botched prosecution of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
But the case was reportedly passed on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation because of unspecified “issues” — raising doubts about the seriousness of the threat. Kelly said the quick timetable forced his department to act without the FBI.
“We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together, drilling a hole [for the detonator], and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with the bomb,” he said.
The NYPD did show a video demonstration of what damage a device like Pimentel’s would do to a car — but it remains to be seen how much expertise Pimentel was provided by a police informant. The criminal complaint states that several of the bomb-making sessions took place at the informant’s apartment, including the one immediately preceding Pimentel’s arrest.
Additionally, City officials also waited over 24 hours to announce the arrest — though they had already determined that he was not acting with anyone else.
Yes, the charges against Pimentel are serious — but the timing and tone of the announcement raises questions about whether Bloomberg, et. al. are trying to shift the media narrative away from some recent bad press.
UPDATE 1:17 pm: The Associated Press is reporting that the FBI believed Pimentel was mentally unstable and incapable of pulling off an attack, which is why they refused to take up the case at least twice.
One law enforcement official told AP that Pimentel “didn’t have the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own” — which will surely raise new questions about the role of the NYPD informant.
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