Opening arguments began Monday in the federal trial of Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek immigrant who in 2017 plowed into a rented van on a New York City bike path, killing eight people in his path of destruction.
The October 31 attack was the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since September 11, 2001. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, marking the first federal death penalty trial under President Joe Biden’s administration. .
Saipov was charged with 28 counts, including eight counts of murder, attempted murder and one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, or ISIS, terror group. He pleaded not guilty in November 2017.
The prosecution delivered opening arguments Monday morning in a New York courthouse before a room full of survivors and family members of the victims who were killed.
Prosecutors spoke of the “destruction and horror of that day” and mentioned how Saipov allegedly shot down his victims to become a member of ISIS.
The judge said that the trial should last three months.
Police said Saipov, then 29, was inspired by the Islamic State, or ISIS, terror group to launch the attack.
He told the FBI after the rampage that he «felt good about what he did» and wanted to kill as many people as possible, according to the criminal complaint. He planned an attack for about a year, according to the complaint.
How the attack unfolded
In the attack, Saipov rented a white van from Home Depot in Passaic, New Jersey, and drove it to Manhattan, where the streets were abuzz with Halloween festivities.
It headed south onto the West Side Freeway bike path, a tree-lined route along the Hudson River, turned onto the bike path near Houston Street and continued at high speed for nearly a mile, indiscriminately striking cyclists and people on your way.
Saipov struck a school bus outside Stuyvesant High School, jumped up and yelled «Allahu Akbar,» which means «God is great» in Arabic, and brandished a pellet and paintball gun, authorities said. He was later confronted by a police officer who shot him in the abdomen, and Saipov was taken into custody and hospitalized.
Investigators later found a note Saipov left in the truck, claiming the attack was on behalf of ISIS.
Six of the fatalities were tourists, five of them Argentine and one Belgian. Two Americans were also killed: Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, New Jersey, and Nicholas Cleves, 23, of New York. Twelve people were injured in the attack.
Three interpreters, one for Saipov, one for the Belgians and one for the Argentines were present in the courtroom on Monday.
Saipov came to the US in 2010 and seemed to «self-radicalize»
Saipov came to the US in 2010 from Uzbekistan, driving long-haul trucks and Uber for a living, living with his wife in Paterson, New Jersey.
He was born in the capital of Tashkent and came to the United States on a visa through a diversity immigrant visa program in 2010, according to the Uzbek Consulate and US authorities. The program, according to the Department of Stateallows the arrival of a limited number of applicants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.
Records indicated that within months he obtained commercial trucking licenses in New Jersey and then Florida, and registered two auto-related businesses in Ohio.
At some point, he had «self-radicalized» after consuming ISIS propaganda, a federal law enforcement official previously told NBC News.