What to Know
- The 73-year-old man opened a package at a home in Queens and it exploded
- The man suffered severe burns and was in critical condition before he died
- Federal authorities joined the NYPD in their investigation
The NYPD released a sketch Wednesday of a man they want to speak with in connection to an exploding package that killed a man in Queens.
The sketch shows a thin man with a mustache. Police believe the man, who they described as as person of interest, is in his early 30s.
A 73-year-old man died Monday from severe burns he got when the package exploded in his hands as he opened it on the porch of a home he owned in Queens last week.
George Wray, of Queens, suffered second and third-degree burns to 80 percent of his body, mostly to his torso and legs, in Friday's blast, according to police. He died of his injuries at Nassau University Medical Center.
NYPD Chief Robert Boyce said Monday that there is a strong possibility of arrest, but that "I don't have a homicide" since Wray's exact cause of death won't be determined until an autopsy is completed.
Calling the investigation complex, Boyce said investigators have "a lot of strong leads" about who the intended target was. A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said police don't plan to reveal that person's identity. It's not believed Wray was the intended target.
The source said there was a past Bloods gang member with connections to that address, but police don't believe there's a connection to the bombing at this time. The intended target was not connected to the house directly, the source said, but may have had some link to someone else who had lived there.
The package was addressed to a single name and had no postal address, according to the source. The return address was a police station, but investigators don't believe there's a link to the station.
Federal agents have joined the NYPD as the department investigates the package, which was left on the porch of a home Wray owns on 222nd Street in Springfield Gardens. He was the landlord of the property, which was rented out to two families.
The package had apparently been left on the porch for days in a clear plastic bag, according to Boyce.
When Wray opened the cylindrical package — 12 inches by 4 inches in size — it exploded in his hands, erupting in a cloud of smoke and covering him in flames, Boyce said. He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in critical condition.
Neighbors said they heard a boom and came out to find Wray doubled over in flames on the ground.
"A big explosion, and when I look up I see a big cloud of smoke," said Audrey Campbell. "He was in shock, he wasn't yelling. Somebody, another neighbor, bring a towel to out the fire. His clothes was all gone — burned up."
The front of the house was visibly damaged in the blast, with smokey ash seen covering the front door. Video from the scene shows Wray kneeling, his clothes in tatters and much of his body badly burned.
Boyce said the device is considered low-explosive and appears to have produced no shrapnel. He said the package, which is a cardboard tube, exploded when Wray opened the top and that there was a black flash powder inside.
"Flash powder is something used in pyrotechnics," Boyce said. "It creates an incendiary flame. That's what covered Mr. Wray."
"There is substantial evidence left from this device, which appears to be a victim-actuated device," Boyce said. "In other words, when he opened it, the explosion occurred."
Boyce said the package appears to have been left on the porch for several days and that the two families who live in the home didn't pick it up since the name on the package didn't match anyone who lives there. That's when their landlord, Wray, decided to open it.
Mail carriers who were interviewed said they didn't deliver it, which has led investigators to believe it was hand-delivered, although postage had been placed on the box.
The official called the device simple but well-crafted. Remnants of the package were sent to a lab as authorities try to figure out where the parts were purchased. Video cameras in the area are also being reviewed; authorities believe the package was left last Tuesday.
It's believed Wray, who owns a number of properties in the area, was not the intended target since he opened the package at random, the official said. Police are interviewing residents of the home to see if someone would have reason to target them.
Federal officials, including agents from the FBI and ATF, as well as U.S. Postal inspectors, are part of the investigation.