New York

I-Team: Has NYC Forgotten About the Mystery Central Park Bombing?

Can an obscure bakery bag help jog our memories?

What to Know

  • College student Connor Golden lost his foot when he stepped on a homemade explosive in Central Park in July 2016
  • Investigators are still looking for the person who planted the explosive powder, though they don't think it was motivated by terrorism
  • Golden's family has been searching for clues themselves, and found what could be a game-changer in an old Instagram comment

For the parents of Connor Golden, it is almost unbelievable.

Three years after their son's lower leg was blown up by an explosive booby-trap in Central Park, no one has claimed responsibility. No one has had enough conscience to report the bomber to police.

"It’s really difficult to fathom the depraved person who would have done this," said Kevin Golden, the victim’s dad, from his Fairfax, Virginia home.

Since the blast, Connor, who is now going into his senior year at the University of Miami in Florida, has made an inspiring physical recovery. He has re-learned to walk, run, and even rock climb with his prosthetic foot. His parents say he's also made a psychological recovery that is nothing short of remarkable.

"Connor has, in some ways, moved on more than we have. He has forgiven. I don’t know how he’s done that. But we haven’t," said his father. "We're still very much focused on figuring out how this could have possibly happened.”

So far, the best clue in the unsolved case is a bakery bag that investigators believe housed the explosive material - a homemade compound known as TATP, which is so sensitive to friction and heat that it can explode on impact.

Explosion on impact is exactly what happened three years ago.

On July 3, 2016, Connor landed on the bakery bag as he jumped off some rocks near the Central Park entrance at Fifth Avenue and East 60th Street.

The TATP inside detonated, shredding the bakery bag to pieces - and claiming Connor's lower leg.

Once investigators painstakingly pieced the bag back together, they learned it has a unique backstory. The bag was originally used to package Cuban-style crackers at La Unica bakery in Union City, New Jersey. That’s about six miles away from the blast site in Central Park.

But in 2010, La Unica was sold to a new owner who now uses a plain, clear plastic bag to package his crackers.

“I’ve owned this bakery since 2010,” said Jason Li, the current owner of La Unica. “I’ve never used this bag since I took this business over.”

That means whoever made the homemade explosive had access to a bakery bag that had not been in circulation for close to a decade.

The I-Team was unsuccessful in efforts to reach Barbara and Jorge Paredes, listed in public records as the previous owners of La Unica Bakery. After selling the business, they moved to Jacksonville, Florida.

Detective Andrew Cohen, the NYPD's lead investigator on the case, said both the previous and current owners of La Unica have been cooperative in the investigation, helping him track down the manufacturer and printer of the bakery bag. But so far, no leads associated with the bag have pointed to the bomber.

"We want to have answers for Connor. And we also want to have answers for the family," Cohen said.

Cohen continues to consider all theories of the crime, but he tends to believe the bomber prepared the explosive somewhere within a close distance to New York City.

"The homemade explosive that was utilized - the high explosive that was used - is very unstable and transporting it from far distances would be very risky.” Cohen said. “So we believe that it could be in this area - in the New Jersey and New York area.”

For that reason, Kevin Golden believes the best bet for finding the mystery bomber lies with someone in the New York metropolitan area who remembers seeing the La Unica bag in 2016 – long after it was used commercially.

“It’s not like this is a bag coming from Target or Wal-Mart,” Golden said. “We would implore people in New York to really cast back and give some thought to their connections to that bakery. People they know, people in their network that have frequented that bakery and maybe make some connections of any kind of suspicious circumstances.”

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