A man who went on a deadly rampage with a U-Haul truck Monday in New York City was having an apparent mental health crisis and said he began running over people after seeing an «invisible object» approaching him. him, police said Tuesday.
Weng Sor, 62, was charged Tuesday with murder and attempted murder in the attack, which unfolded for a harrowing 48 minutes across a wide swath of Brooklyn’s bustling Bay Ridge neighborhood. Police eventually pinned the truck against a building after a miles-long chase.
One person was killed and eight people were injured when the U-Haul truck veered onto sidewalks and plowed into bicyclists, motorcyclists and at least one pedestrian, striking people at multiple points along a winding route. The truck also struck a police car, and the officer inside was among those injured.
The extent and duration of the destruction raised questions about the NYPD response and whether the pursuit, which at one point involved a police car chasing the U-Haul onto the sidewalk. like a man dove to safety — put more people in danger.
Sor, a troubled man with a history of violence and mental illness, told police that seeing an «invisible object» set him off, Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters Tuesday. Sor’s family said he had stopped taking his medication, Essig said.
“He says that when he drives his van he sees an ‘invisible object’ approaching the car. At that point, he says, ‘I’ve had enough,’ and he flips out,” Essig said. «There was no object.»
Sor, who lived in Las Vegas with his mother, arrived in New York last week after spending time in Florida and was stopped twice at the U-Haul in the days before the attack, police said. He was removed from a police station and was expected to be arraigned Tuesday night or Wednesday. Court records did not list an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
The U-Haul struck three people on mopeds, three people on bicycles, one person on an electric bicycle and one person on foot as the truck moved through a busy area of Brooklyn just north of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge along along New York Harbor, police said. The victims were between the ages of 30 and 66.
A 44-year-old man riding a moped died from a head injury after he was struck by the truck about half an hour after it struck the first victim. Mayor Eric Adams said the man, whose name has not been released, was a single father who was «raising those kids on his own.»
Mohammed Zakaria Salah Rakchi, 36, a delivery man who emigrated from Algeria three years ago, was run over while running errands after dropping off his 7-year-old daughter at school. He suffered broken bones, including his ribs, as well as other injuries and remained in a medically induced coma Tuesday.
A lawyer for Rakchi’s family, Derek Sells, questioned whether being chased by police «was a triggering event for this driver and what could have led him to do the things he did.»
NYPD policy requires officers to stop pursuing vehicles when the risks to police and the public «outweigh the danger to the community.»
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Tuesday that the department is reviewing its response. The NYPD later posted body camera video footage on social media showing the officers urgent cleaning of a street full of elementary school children near where the U-Haul was wreaking havoc.
Sor leased the U-Haul truck in West Palm Beach, Florida, on February 1, prepaying for a 30-day rental. He stayed there until Feb. 4, when he began driving north to Brooklyn, where his son and his ex-wife live, Essig said.
On February 5, Sor was pulled over in South Carolina and cited for reckless driving and possession of marijuana. 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. Records show that he was convicted and served time for multiple acts of violence, including stabbing his own brother.
“Very often, he chooses to skip his meds and do something like this,” Stephen Sor said in an interview outside his Brooklyn home. “This is not the first time he has been arrested. It is not the first time that he has gone to jail.”
On February 8, Essig said, police stopped Sor for speeding in the U-Haul on a Brooklyn highway where trucks and other commercial vehicles are prohibited. He was then seen in New Jersey on Sunday, a day before the chaos in Brooklyn, Essig said.
The chase with police ended Monday when a police patrol cut off the winding route and blocked the truck against a building near the entrance to a tunnel that runs from Brooklyn to Manhattan, more than 3 miles from where the chase began.
After Sor was arrested, Essig said he told police: «You should have shot me.»
Sor’s criminal history includes arrests for driving while intoxicated and evading a police officer in 2002 and multiple cases of assault.
In 2015, Weng Sor stabbed her brother to death in Las Vegas and served nearly 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.
Before pleading guilty in that case, Sor was evaluated for several months in state psychiatric facilities before being found competent to face charges, court records show. The records do not list any diagnoses, but do note that Sor received medication.
In an earlier case in Nevada, he was ordered to counsel and perform community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2005. The judge noted at the time that Sor was moving to New York and ordered her to submit to a mental health assessment once you arrived.