In two separate incidents over the weekend, thieves accidentally helped thwart bombing attempts in and around New York City by stealing packages that turned out to have bombs in them, according to DNA Info. What’s more, both groups of would-be thieves inadvertently aided police in the hunt for the Chelsea bomber, who is believed to have placed these failed bombs as well. It may have been accidental, but make no mistake, they saved the day.
The first instance unfolded on Saturday, sources told DNA Info, when two men reportedly came across a rolling suitcase on West 27th Street. When they opened it up, they found what they may or may not have known was a pressure cooker bomb inside. The pair removed the bomb and discarded it, then made off with the suitcase. Investigators believe that as they were handling the explosive, they accidentally disabled it.
Not long thereafter, authorities recovered the bomb, which still had a cell phone attached to it. Investigators were able to trace the phone to the alleged bomber’s family, and ultimately the suspect himself. Robert Boyce, Chief of Detectives at the NYPD, told DNA Info that the two men aren’t considered suspects, but that the department would like to question them as witnesses.
A similar incident played out a day later in New Jersey, when two homeless men reportedly took a backpack that was sitting on a trashcan near a popular bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Upon opening it, they saw five pipe bombs inside. They immediately dropped the bag, walked right to the Elizabeth police station — which happened to be around the corner — and reported the package to the police. Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said that these accidental heroes “probably saved hundreds of lives.” The bomb itself was subsequently detonated by a bomb squad robot.
These accidents are helpful reminders that, as horrifying as the Chelsea bombing was, it could have been far worse. In addition to the above cases, another bomb on West 27th Street was neutralized after a woman spotted it lying in a trashcan and called police. That's three potential bombings that were prevented by everyday citizens.
To be sure, a lot of this was just dumb luck. The two guys on West 27th weren’t attempting to prevent a terrorist attack when they took the rolling suitcase, for instance. Nevertheless, foiling a terrorist attack is indisputably a good thing, and the entire country owes a collective debt — or at the very least, a very big “thank you” — to these package thieves.