A Tale of Two Videos in Times Square Bomb Scare

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    A surveillance video shot of the Nissan SUV in Times Square (right) before it was spotted by sharp-eyed vendors and police.

    New York City police say they have surveillance video of the Times Square car bomb suspect walking down an alley moments after witnesses saw a smoking SUV parked there.

    A law enforcement official says the 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad  walks away wearing a white baseball cap moments after the Nissan Pathfinder is ditched in a no-standing zone across from a Broadway theater.

    The official spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

    Meanwhile, a man shown on surveillance video shedding his shirt near a car bomb in Times Square may have lulled Shahzad into a false sense of security.

    Investigators now believe the man, who has not been identified, was a bystander and wasn't connected to Saturday's attempted Broadway bombing.

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    But investigators believe the video had an unintended benefit: Falsely reassuring the real suspect that he wasn't a target before his arrest Monday night, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation.

    The official spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.

    Police are not aggressively pursuing the red-shirted man on the video but would speak with him if he turned up, chief police spokesman Paul Browne said.

    The video, which was released by the New York Police Department on Sunday, showed a man apparently in his 40s pulling off a dark-colored long-sleeve shirt to reveal a red T-shirt underneath. He quickly stuffed the first shirt in a backpack as he looked over his shoulder toward the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, which contained a crude gasoline-and-propane bomb rigged with alarm clocks and fireworks.

    The video, shot through the window of a restaurant, went viral, appearing on thousands of websites (see it here).

    Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the man was looking furtively as he walked quickly from the scene. But Kelly never said he was a suspect — only that police wanted to speak with him.

    Investigators had reasons to release the video: The man had removed an article of clothing, and some crime suspects wear layers and take one off quickly to throw investigators off the scent. Also, the man was in the area at the time investigators believe the SUV was ditched, and he was near the SUV, on 45th Street and Broadway, and glancing toward it.

    But, police and the mayor said, it was possible he had heard the popping of the firecrackers in the SUV or was just a bystander taking off his long sleeves on a hot day, looking over his shoulder because he was self-conscious.

    "Maybe he was just changing his shirt," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday. "And this is Times Square, where you have the Naked Cowboy."

    The grainy video made it difficult to see the man's face, and police received few tips. But at the same time, they'd located the vehicle identification number from the SUV's engine block and were closing in on their true suspect.

    Faisal Shahzad was identified and placed under surveillance Monday afternoon, officials said. He was seen going about a regular day — coming out of a store near his home in Bridgeport, Conn. Authorities planned to arrest him at his apartment that evening, but he may have gotten spooked by news reports that investigators were seeking a Pakistani suspect in Connecticut, two people familiar with the probe said.

    Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was arrested on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges after being hauled off a Dubai-bound plane he boarded Monday night at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was belted in to his seat when FBI agents and police officers entered the jetliner and took him into custody.

    Kifyat Ali, a cousin of Shahzad's father, has called the arrest "a conspiracy."

    Shahzad was charged Tuesday with trying to detonate the SUV bomb amid tourists and Broadway theatergoers.

    The SUV was seen on surveillance cameras at 6:28 p.m. Saturday, and police were notified a few minutes later. The area was shut down for 10 hours. Police defused the bomb, and no one was hurt.