The street vendor whose illegally parked van caused a terror scare in Times Square earlier this week surrendered to cops last night, as Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged the force should've handled the situation more efficiently.
Street peddler George Freyre, 36, turned himself in at about 6 p.m. Thursday and was charged with a felony count of altering the vehicle's registration. The New Jersey man was also hit with another summons, possibly related to a fake placard in his window identifying it as a law-enforcement vehicle, according to the Daily News. He denies all the charges against him.
A defense lawyer said Friday that Freyre doesn't own the van. Prosecutors say he told police it was his.
Meanwhile, Kelly has called for an investigation into why it took two days for cops to investigate the van, a white 1992 Dodge with tinted windows and no license plates that had been parked illegally for 48 hours. An officer had gone out to check on the van early Wednesday morning, but it wasn't until a 911 call reporting a suspicious van came in a few hours later that the investigation launched into full swing, reports the News.
"It should have been discovered before," Kelly told The New York Post. "We're doing an investigation into why it wasn't discovered earlier."
Cops ended up shutting down parts of Times Square and evacuating parts of several high-rise buildings, including the homes to Nasdaq and Conde Nast. Police used a robot-based camera to examine the vehicle, then approached on foot and peered in the windows. They eventually determined the vehicle contained only clothes and was no threat, but the process by which they came to that conclusion involved a two-hour drama that frightened many New Yorkers wary of anything suspicious in the area on New Year's Eve.
As it turns out, the bogus placard that allowed the van to remain illegally parked for two days was issued by a nonexistent detective's unit within the Metropolitan New Jersey and New York, according to the News. Kelly ordered the NYPD's Legal Bureau to consider levying civil charges against the Bronx nonprofit for issuing the card, which one source told the News was "manufactured for the purpose of escaping parking tickets."
The police department will also review who was assigned to the area during the two days the vehicle remained parked there and traffic agents who didn't ticket it, despite the fact that it was in a no-parking zone, according to the Post.
Freyre was released without bail after his arraignment Friday. Defense lawyer Bruce Wenger says his client turned himself in to police only because they were looking for him.