Parts of Staten Island were on a lockdown, with police asking visitors to leave the immediate area, after a retired New York City police officer spotted a group of people carrying what appeared to be assault rifles at the Midland Beach parking lot. The group’s photos are being circulated on social media and the New York City Police Department issued a BOLO for the group. The NYPD has said they may be carrying paintball guns instead of assault rifles. Here’s what we know so far.
1. A Retired Police Officer Saw a Group of People Carrying Assault Rifles in Staten Island
A retired police officer took photos of a group of people that he saw carrying assault rifles, according to the Staten Island Advance. He was at the Midland Beach parking lot when he saw the group. One member of the group was a woman dressed in possible Middle Eastern clothing.
Police with bomb-sniffing dogs and machine guns were seen on the island, along with an increased police presence at both entrances to the Gateway National Recreational Area in Fort Wadsworth, the Staten Island Advance reported.
2. Witnesses Said They Were Told to Leave the Immediate Area
Witnesses told the Staten Island Advance that police officers were ordering them to leave the immediate area. Only residents and officers were allowed in the area where the group carrying assault rifles were seen. The West Shore Expressway and the Korean War Veterans Parkway are also backed up for police checks. At least a 30 minute delay was reported by the WAZE app during the afternoon. The New York Observer reported that a lane on the Outerbridge Crossing was closed for traffic stops and car searches, but it has since been reopened.
3. The New York City Police Department Issued a BOLO for the Group
A BOLO was issued for the group and their two vans. The vans have license plate numbers NJ A83FCB and NJ PSJ52V. Anyone with information should contact the Intelligence Bureau Operations at 646-805-6400.
4. The New York City Police Department Said the Rifles May Just be Paintball Guns
The retired officer who saw the group mentioned that one might have been carrying a paintball gun, but he wasn’t sure. Since his initial report, the New York City Police Department has said the weapons “strongly resemble” paintball guns, according to CBS New York. In addition, the registered owner of one of the vehicles listed in the BOLO had said he was planning to play paintball with friends on Friday, according to CBS.
5. Nearby Residents Expressed Worry and Concern on Social Media
Social media was filled with residents and civilians expressing concerns about the lockdown and wondering if they were possibly in danger. Meanwhile, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo reported on his Twitter account that all lanes on all bridges were reopened. More information will be posted as it is available.