Newly released surveillance video shows a man in a baseball cap climb up to a West Village street from a secure subway exit hatch and toss a smoke bomb into a crowd of restaurant diners before slipping back into the grate and disappearing underground.
A law enforcement source told NBC 4 New York Monday the hatch from which the suspect emerged did not have a functioning alarm at the time he crawled out and hurled the device into the crowd.
The video from Friday's smoke bomb toss shows the outdoor patios of Da Silvano and Bar Pitti restaurants on Sixth Avenue between Bleecker and Houston streets fill with smoke. Two women with a child at one of the restaurants wave their hands to brush the smoke away and flee the area.
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The man is believed to have accessed the grate through an MTA tunnel connected to two subway stations -- the West Fourth Street station and the Spring Street station, the law enforcement source said.
Subway lines with access to that particular tunnel include the northbound A, C and E and the southbound B, D and F lines.
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The smoke bomb resembled a red safety flare as it went off, according to a witness. Police said the device used Friday was a commercial pyrotechnic smoke generator, which is stronger and delivers more smoke than typical smoke bombs. It's not clear if they are legal to possess in New York.
No one was hurt, authorities say, but diners were shaken.
"We were just trying to relax and have a nice dinner, and then there was smoke and a bunch of policemen," said Sara Bond, who was visiting from New Orleans.
Actress Rose McGowan, who had been dining at one of the restaurants, tweeted, "Eyes are burning. #NYCWHAT," after the smoke cleared.[[279010011, C]]
The suspect is about 20 years old, with blonde wavy hair, according to police. He was last seen wearing black gloves, a black baseball cap and a multi-colored T-shirt with an American flag on it.
Follow Marc Santia on Twitter @MarcSantia4NY