UPDATE: Suicide Note Found in New Year’s Eve Crash Probed as Terrorism


Update: A suicide note found at the scene of a fiery New Year’s Eve crash that left two innocent victims dead and four innocent victims injured—one critically—will shift the focus of an investigation that had been seen as a possible terrorist attack, the New York Post reported.

On Tuesday, law enforcement officials indicated there was no terrorism link in the case.

The perpetrator, Michael Avery, was suspected of being bipolar. He died of his injuries late Monday, the third casualty of the crash.

Original story below:

(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) Despite fears of a Hamas-related disruption, the Times Square New Year’s Eve event in New York City on Sunday night seemed to go on without major incident.

Yet, 50 minutes after the Waterford crystal ball dropped and 300 miles away, in Rochester, N.Y., authorities are investigating what may have been the first terrorism-related event of 2024, ABC News reported.

According to Rochester police chief David Smith, two people died and five were injured when a Ford Expedition struck a Mitsubishi Outlander around 12:50 a.m. Monday as it was exiting a parking lot near the city’s Kodak Center entertainment venue.

“The force of the collision caused the two vehicles to go through a group of pedestrians that were in the crosswalk, and then into two other vehicles,” Smith said at a press briefing on Monday. “There was a large fire associated with the crash that took the Rochester Fire Department almost one hour to extinguish.”

The venue was hosting an event with the jam band moe., who conveyed their shock and sympathy in a post via Instagram.

Both of those who died were occupants of the Mitsubishi Outlander, which was an Uber rental. The vehicle’s driver was one of those transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Three pedestrians were also transported to the hospital, one of whom had life-threatening injuries, and the driver of the Ford also was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

The Ford Expedition, however, did not survive the accident. Its charred remains left little more than the vehicle’s frame, according to photos after the incident.

Of note, Smith said, first responders reported at least a dozen gasoline canisters in and around the Expedition.

“We are continuing to work with our federal partners, including the FBI, to learn exactly what led to this crash,” he said.

Officials are currently scouring the social media of the Ford driver and interviewing friends and relatives. Thus far, they have determined that the man came from Syracuse, about 75 miles east of Rochester.

He drove his own vehicle to the Syracuse airport and rented the extra-large Ford SUV there.

Richard Frankel, a former bureau chief at the FBI’s Buffalo field office, told ABC News that given the heightened concerns over Middle Eastern terrorism in particular, it seemed logical to infer this was being considered as one possible motive.

“All matters where you’re not sure of what they are, but there’s loss of life and they can’t be explained away immediately as an accident, have to be looked at as if they’re terrorism until they’re proven to not be terrorism,” he said.

The issue of Palestinian extremism has been compounded by the porous open borders under the Biden administration and the civil unrest expected to come with the November election to create a confluence of factors that will make 2024 a year of high-level alert for many.

One prominent investigative journalism, CBS News’s Catherine Herridge, recently suggested that the U.S. was prime for a “black swan” type of attack similar to 9/11—something that comes unexpectedly but seems obvious in retrospect.

But whether there is a 9/11-style grand-scale attack or not, there are sure to be many smaller-scale events that are equally devastating to those affected by them.

Ben Sellers is the editor of Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/realbensellers.