NEW YORK (AP) — A U-Haul driver who veered onto sidewalks and rammed into bicyclists and moped riders Monday in New York City, killing one person and injuring eight, claimed he started mowing down people after seeing an “invisible object” coming toward the truck, police said Tuesday.
Weng Sor, 62, was charged Tuesday with murder and attempted murder in the rampage, which spanned 48 minutes and a large swath of Brooklyn’s bustling Bay Ridge neighborhood. Police were able to pin the truck against a building after a miles-long chase. Authorities were still considering charges related to a police officer who was hurt.
Sor, whose family and court records portray as a troubled man with a history of violence and mental illness, told police that once he saw the invisible object he’d “had enough” and began plowing into people, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said during a Tuesday news conference. Once stopped, Essig said Sor told officers they should’ve shot him.
“We believe Mr. Sor was suffering from a mental health crisis,” Essig said, reiterating that there is no evidence of a connection to terrorism.
Sor remained in police custody Tuesday. He was expected to be arraigned in court on the charges late Tuesday or on Wednesday. Court records did not list a lawyer who could 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 who was on foot, police said. The truck also rammed into a police car, injuring the officer inside. The victims ranged in age from 30 to 66.
A 44-year-old man riding a moped died from a head injury after he was hit by the truck roughly a half hour after it struck the first victim. Mayor Eric Adams said the man, whose name has not been made public, was a single father “raising those children on his own.”
Sor rented the U-Haul truck in West Palm Beach, Florida on Feb. 1, paying in advance 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 Feb. 5, Sor was pulled over in South Carolina and cited for reckless driving and marijuana possession. He arrived in Brooklyn the next day, surprising 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 and, until recently, was living in Las Vegas. Records there show he was convicted and served time for multiple acts of violence, including stabbing his own brother.
“Very frequently he’ll choose to skip out on his medications 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’s not the first time he’s gone to jail.”
On Feb. 8, Essig said, police stopped Sor for speeding in the U-Haul on a Brooklyn highway where trucks and other commercial vehicles are not allowed. He was then spotted in New Jersey on Sunday, a day before the mayhem in Brooklyn, Essig said.
Sor’s criminal history includes arrests for driving while intoxicated and evading a police officer in 2002 and multiple instances of battery.
In 2015, Weng Sor stabbed his brother in Las Vegas and served 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 county jail, with about 10 months of time already served.
Before pleading guilty in that case, Sor underwent several months of evaluations at state psychiatric facilities until he was found competent to face charges, court records show. The records don’t list a possible diagnosis, but note that Sor was placed on medications.
In an earlier Nevada case, Sor was ordered to undergo counseling and perform community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2005. The judge noted at the time that Sor was moving to New York and ordered him to submit to a mental health evaluation once there.
In this photo taken from security video, a man jumps out of the way as a U-Haul truck drives onto the sidewalk, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Authorities say a man driving a U-Haul truck struck and injured several pedestrians in New York City before police were able to pin the careening vehicle against a building following a mileslong pursuit through Brooklyn. (Jorge Aldaz via AP)