In the early hours of New Year's Day, a horrific car crash outside the Kodak Center in Rochester, New York, turned a celebratory night into a scene of devastation. The incident, which left two dead and several injured, is now being investigated as a potential act of domestic terrorism.
The Incident and Initial Findings
Around 12:50 a.m. on Monday, revelers were crossing a walkway outside the concert venue when a Ford SUV collided with a Mitsubishi Outlander exiting a nearby parking lot. Rochester Police Chief David Smith detailed the events at a Monday press conference, explaining how the collision's impact propelled the vehicles into a group of pedestrians.
The crash resulted in the death of two passengers in the Mitsubishi, with others, including the driver, suffering non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Ford was hospitalized with serious injuries, and three pedestrians were also taken to the hospital, one in critical condition.
What transformed this from a tragic accident to a potential act of terrorism were the findings at the scene. The crash led to a fire that raged for nearly an hour before firefighters could extinguish it. Amidst the wreckage, authorities discovered at least a dozen gasoline canisters in and around the Ford SUV.
The Suspect and the Investigation
The suspect in this tragic event has been identified as Michael Avery from Syracuse. Following the incident, a suicide note and journal were reportedly found in Avery's hotel room, leading authorities to further probe the matter as domestic terrorism.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has since joined the investigation, with the FBI's Buffalo office assisting Rochester police. Domestic terrorism, as defined by the FBI, involves acts that are dangerous to human life, violate U.S.
or state laws, and appear intended to intimidate or coerce civilians, influence government policy, or disrupt governmental conduct through violent means. The suspect's family, interviewed by investigators, mentioned that they believed Avery was bipolar, though he had not been formally diagnosed.
This detail adds another layer to an already complex investigation.
This incident has cast a somber shadow over the New Year celebrations in Rochester. Mayor Evans, in his statement, lamented the fact that a time typically marked by joy and hope was marred by such a tragic event.
"I would have been liking to stand at this podium to deliver happy new year and smile and say good news, but unfortunately … we have several individuals whose family's lives are changed because they will not be here to bring in 2024," Evans said.