The man accused of driving a Home Depot rental truck into a group of pedestrians and cyclists in New York is an Uzbekistan national who lived in New Jersey and drove for Uber.
Details about the 29-year-old suspected of killing eight people and injuring about a dozen more in a terror attack on Manhattan’s lower west side on Tuesday are still emerging. Police shot the truck driver in the abdomen after he emerged from the truck brandishing what officials later said was a pellet gun and paintball gun. He has undergone surgery and is in a critical condition in hospital.
As authorities work to piece together the events that led to the deadly attack, some details about Sayfullo Saipov’s life are beginning to surface.
Saipov is reported to have entered the US in 2010 and lived in Ohio, Florida and latterly in Paterson, New Jersey.
Dilfuza Iskhakova, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, told the Guardian that Saipov had stayed with her for several months about six years ago after arriving from Uzbekistan.
“He seemed like a nice guy, but he didn’t talk much,” Iskhakova told the Guardian.
“He only went to work and came back. He used to work at a warehouse.”
Iskhakova said Saipov had been applying for a green card when she knew him. Ohio state records show he registered two businesses while living in the state. The first, Sayf Motors Inc, used Iskhakova’s address while the second, Bright Auto LLC, used an address near Cleveland.
Iskhakova said her family had lost contact with Saipov in recent years and she thought he had moved from Ohio to Florida, then to the New York region, and that he now had a wife and two young children.
A marriage licence registered in Summit County, Ohio, lists a Sayfulloh Saipov marrying 19-year-old Nozima Odilova in 2013. Both gave Tashkent, Uzbekistan as their birthplace.
The couple gave the same address as the Cleveland headquarters Bright Auto LLC, and Saipov’s occupation is listed as truck driver.
Eyewitnesses have described hearing Saipov shouting “Allahu Akbar” – or “God is great” in Arabic – as he carried out the attack, and numerous outlets have reported that authorities found handwritten notes in Arabic in the truck after the attack. This has not been confirmed by officials.
But Iskhakova said she did not know if Saipov was religious.
“He’s from my country,” she said. “His father knows my husband, and sent Sayfullo here because he didn’t know anyone.”
Later he moved to Florida and worked as a truck driver, before driving for Uber while living in New Jersey.
Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, an Uzbek immigrant told the New York Times he met Saipov in Fort Myers, Florida, several years ago when Saipov was working as a truck driver.
“He was a very good person when I knew him,” he told the Times.
“He liked the US. He seemed very lucky and all the time he was happy and talking like everything is OK. He did not seem like a terrorist, but I did not know him from the inside.”
Saipov had lived in an apartment complex at Tampa, near the Hillsborough River, and the Washington Post reported that on Tuesday evening plainclothes investigators were seen departing the complex.
It is unclear when Saipov moved to New Jersey and began driving for Uber, but it is understood he passed the company’s background check.
The company is in contact with law enforcement and the FBI, and while it is quickly reviewing Saipov’s work history, it said no “related” concerning safety reports had been uncovered.
In a statement a spokesman for Uber said the company was “horrified by this senseless act of violence”.
“Our hearts are with the victims and their families. We have reached out to law enforcement to provide our full assistance,” the statement read.