This week brought one of the stranger news stories of the year, which began when a would-be car thief broke into a van parked on a quiet, residential street in Brooklyn. Upon entering the vehicle, the thief noted a slight smell of gasoline, but continued his work anyway. However, when he prepared to “hotwire” the vehicle’s ignition, he noticed some wires that didn’t belong. The man traced those wires to the rear of the van, where they connected to various 5-gallon and 12-once plastic containers filled with a clear liquid later identified as gasoline.
At this point, rather than leave the vehicle where he found it or call police, our elustrious car thief thought he’d move the vehicle out of the residential area. (Personally, I would have called 911 rather than risk blowing myself up, but that’s just the self-preservationist in me.) Somehow the man managed to disable the bomb, start the vehicle, and move it to a deserted part of 37th Street near the Brooklyn waterfront. Then, as if this story wasn’t strange enough, he called police and told them of his find, fearing that he may have uncovered a July 4 terrorist plot. For his efforts, police declined to charge the man with stealing the van.
On learning where the van was originally parked, police quickly discounted the terrorist angle. Instead, the focus shifted to a man already in custody, one Yung “Mark” Tang. Arrested in January while transporting explosives from Massachusetts to New York, Mr. Tang is known to have a penchant for explosives; he reportedly tried to blow up a tenant during a landlord-tenant dispute. The van was located near where he had lived with his estranged wife prior to his arrest. As the van had been parked in the residential neighborhood for more than a month, police think it is plausible that this bomb was another example of Mr. Tang’s handywork. Additionally, the bomb’s design is similar to those previously used by Tang, lending further credibility to the police’s suspicions.
In addition to charges faced relating to his arrest in January, Mr. Tang faces charges related to a 2002 explosion in New York City. If he is formally linked to the bomb-laden van, more charges will undoubtedly follow.
Luck, more than anything else, has helped police thwart Tang’s violent ambitions. His arrest in January came after he pulled off of a Connecticut highway to rest while traveling from Boston to New York. After police questioned why he was sitting in a kindergarten parking lot at 2:30 am, Tang’s van was found to have stolen plates and it was determined that his license was suspended. His detention for charges related to the van led to a search of the vehicle, which revealed explosives and other bomb-making materials.
- “Van left on Brooklyn street packed with hazardous material tied to blast suspect,” New York Daily News, July 5, 2008.
- “Arrest leads to federal bomb charges,” Connecticut Record-Journal, January 31, 2008.