A man who wanted to take revenge on police with homemade bombs planted a device at a wrong address, resulting in an explosion that killed an innocent landlord there, authorities said Wednesday in announcing the man's arrest.
Prosecutors allege Victor Kingsley was seeking to retaliate against New York police officers who had arrested him in 2014 for weapon possessions and other charges that were later dropped.
The package had been left in a clear plastic bag on the porch of a home George Wray owned on 222nd Street in Springfield Gardens and rented to two families
The package had been addressed to a single name and had no postal address, a source familiar with the investigation told News 4 at the time. The return address was a police station, but investigators didn't believe there was a link to the station.
When Wray opened the cylindrical package — 12 inches by 4 inches in size — it exploded in his hands, erupting in a cloud of smoke and covering him in flames. He had second and third-degree burns to 80 percent of his body, mostly to his torso and legs and died of his injuries several days later.
Wray, 73, "was an unintended and innocent victim of this cowardly attack," said John Miller, a deputy police commissioner. "He died a violent and extraordinarily painful death."
The front of the house was visibly damaged in the blast, with smokey ash seen covering the front door. Video from the scene shows Wray kneeling, his clothes in tatters and much of his body badly burned.
Authorities have said the device was considered low-explosive and appeared to have produced no shrapnel. The package, which was a cardboard tube, exploded when Wray opened the top; there was black flash powder inside.
After the deadly blast, investigators combed internet records and cellphone records to identify Kingsley, also discovering that he had been researching how to locate the arresting officers, authorities said.
The records showed he bought potassium chlorate, aluminum metal and other homemade bomb ingredients on Amazon, purchases that continued after Wray's death had made news, they said.
And on Wednesday heavily armed NYPD officers and FBI agents descended on a Brooklyn block Wednesday afternoon in connection with the ongoing probe. Chopper 4 showed a massive, coordinated response. Large SWAT vehicles blocked off the streets and law enforcement officers with rifles, some in tactical gear, were seen looking around a backyard shed. Evacuations of nearby homes were ordered, and a source close to the investigation says FBI, NYPD and ATF found materials consistent with bomb-making at the suspect's East 43rd Street home.
Kingsley was taken to a hospital for evaluation. He said nothing to a News 4 photographer as he was wheeled into the hospital on a stretcher, his hands cuffed behind his back.
He was awaiting an initial court appearance on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn. The name of his attorney wasn't immediately available.
He faces a possible term of life in prison if convicted of charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and illegal transport of explosives.