U-Haul driver was in mental health crisis amid deadly rampage in New York, police say

NEW YORK — A man who went on a deadly rampage with a U-Haul truck in New York City on Monday had an apparent mental health crisis and said he started mowing people down after seeing an “invisible object” approaching him , the police said on Tuesday.

Weng Sor, 62, was charged with murder and attempted murder on Tuesday in the attack, which unfolded over a harrowing 48 minutes in much of Brooklyn’s bustling Bay Ridge neighborhood. Police eventually pinned the truck against a building after a mile-long chase.

One person was killed and eight people injured when the U-Haul truck swerved onto the sidewalks and into cyclists, moped riders and at least one pedestrian, hitting people at several points along a circuitous route. The truck also rammed into a police car and the officer inside was among those injured.

The extent and length of the destruction led to questions about the NYPD’s response and whether the chase – which at one point involved a police car that sped onto the sidewalk after the U-Haul as a man ducked to safety – more endangered people. .

Sor, a troubled man with a history of violence and mental illness, told police that seeing an “invisible object” confused him, Detective Chief James Essig told reporters on Tuesday. Sor’s family said he had stopped taking his medications, Essig said.

“He says that while driving his van, he sees an ‘invisible object’ coming towards the car. At that point he says, ‘I’ve had enough,’ and goes on a rampage,” Essig said. “There was no object.”

Sor, who lives in Las Vegas with his mother, came to New York last week after spending time in Florida and was pulled over twice in the U-Haul in the days leading up to the attack, police said. He was walked out of a police station and was expected to face charges late Tuesday or Wednesday. The court records listed no attorney to comment on his behalf.

The U-Haul struck three people on mopeds, three people on bicycles, one person on an e-bike, and one person on foot as the truck passed through a busy section of Brooklyn just north of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge along New York. Port of York, police said. The victims ranged in age from 30 to 66 years.

A 44-year-old man on a moped died of a head injury after being hit by the truck about half an hour after hitting the first victim. Mayor Eric Adams said the man, whose name has not been made public, was a single father who “raised those kids on his own.”

Mohammed Zakaria Salah Rakchi, 36, a delivery boy who emigrated from Algeria three years ago, was hit by a car while shopping after dropping his 7-year-old daughter off at school. He suffered broken bones, including ribs, and other injuries and remained in a medically induced coma on Tuesday.

An attorney for Rakchi’s family, Derek Sells, questioned whether police pursuit was “a trigger for this driver and what might have led him to do the things that he did.”

NYPD policy requires officers to stop chasing vehicles when the risk to police and the public “outweighs the danger to the community.”

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Tuesday the department is reviewing its response. The NYPD later posted video footage from body cameras to social media showing officers urgently evacuate a street full of primary school children near where the U-Haul wreaked havoc.

Sor rented the U-Haul truck in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 1, prepaying for a 30-day rental. He remained there until Feb. 4, when he began driving north to Brooklyn, where his son and ex-wife live, Essig said.

On February 5, Sor was arrested in South Carolina and charged with reckless driving and possession of marijuana. He arrived in Brooklyn the next day and surprised his son when he showed up at his door in the middle of the night.

Weng Sor’s son, Stephen Sor, 30, told The Associated Press that his father had a history of mental illness. Records show he was convicted and served time for multiple acts of violence, including stabbing his own brother.

“Very often he will choose to go off his meds and do something like this,” Stephen Sor said in an interview outside his Brooklyn home. This isn’t the first time he’s been arrested. It is not the first time he has gone to prison.”

On Feb. 8, Essig said, police stopped Sor for speeding in the U-Haul on a Brooklyn freeway where trucks and other commercial vehicles are prohibited. He was then spotted in New Jersey on Sunday, a day before the mayhem in Brooklyn, Essig said.

The police chase ended Monday when a police car cut off the winding route and blocked the truck against a building at the entrance to a tunnel leading from Brooklyn to Manhattan, more than three miles from where the chase began.

After Sor was stopped, Essig told the police, “You should have shot me.”

Sor’s criminal history includes arrests for drunk driving and evading a police officer in 2002 and multiple counts of battery.

In 2015, Weng Sor stabbed his brother in Las Vegas and spent about 17 months in a Nevada prison, according to court and prison records. In 2020, he stabbed someone in the arm and chest with a knife and was sentenced to 364 days in prison.

Before pleading guilty in that case, Sor was evaluated at state psychiatric facilities for several months before being found competent to prosecute, court records show. The files don’t list any diagnoses, but note that Sor was medicated.

In a previous case in Nevada, he was ordered to undergo counseling and perform community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2005. The judge at the time noted that Sor was moving to New York and ordered him to submit to a mental health evaluation as soon as he arrived.

U-Haul driver was in mental health crisis amid deadly rampage in New York, police say

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