Crime Watch Daily presents 'Badge of Honor' to NYPD cops who handled Times Square bomb scare
09/18/2017 11:44 am PDT
Crime Watch Daily is very proud to launch a new initiative called "Badge of Honor."
We honor law enforcement heroes from all over the country who have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their communities. And our first recipients are two brave policemen from New York City.
It's the heart of Times Square on a balmy July evening. But it may soon be lights out for the neon-lit summer skies over Broadway.
Surveillance tape shows a man throwing a suspicious package into a police van, right into the lap of an NYPD officer.
"I could see it's flashing, it's clicking," said NYPD Officer Peter Cybulski.
"Like your whole life flashed right in front of your eyes," said NYPD Sergeant Hameed Armani.
Cybulski and Armani found themselves at the intersection of faith and doom. Were they prepared to die that night to save the people in Times Square?
"Yes, absolutely," said Cybulski.
Peter Cybulski grew up on Long Island with just one dream.
"My father was in the military, my mom's a nurse, so I've always had that sense of giving back and helping," said Cybulski.
Hameed Armani was born in Afghanistan, a far different life in a troubled distant land.
"The only thing I remember, you know, was just bombing and rockets, and people dying left and right," said Armani.
Armani lost many family members through a succession of wars. But his perspective on the value of human life made him a perfect candidate to become one of New York's Finest. Armani, an Afghan-born practicing Muslim now a proud member of the New York Police Department, partnered with a made-in-America Catholic.
"He's my brother. He's my best friend," said Cybulski. "I would take a bullet for him any day, and I know he would do the same."
It was Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Times Square.
"Around 11:30 p.m., all the Broadway shows were letting out, people were leaving dinner, hundreds, thousands of people in Times Square," said Ofc. Peter Cybulski.
"I saw a SUV slow down next to our van," said Sgt. Hameed Armani. "I was in the driver's side and Pete was on the passenger side. And I heard something landed around the dashboard."
"I could see it was a like a big white package," said Cybulski. "I looked back over to see who just threw something at me, and I see a man giving me a very mean grin. His eyes pretty much said 'I'm gonna kill you,' and within seconds -- probably two, three seconds -- he drives off very fast."
Now the focus is on the ticking object of terror in Cybulski's lap.
"It's flashing. It's clicking. And I could see a red cylinder that I automatically believed was dynamite," said Cybulski. "We look around -- thousands of people in Times Square."
"Two little kids look at -- 'cause kids love cops -- smile at me, and I'm smiling back while everything is going on," said Armani.
"We knew we had to get out of Times Square," said Cybulski.
"Our goal was, We had to save as many lives as possible, and I knew that in order for us to do that, we had to die," said Cybulski.
"But I was ready, as Peter was, to die. I would not leave that device in the middle of Time Square. I would not," said Armani.
"Sgt. Armani quickly puts the lights and siren on," said Cybulski. "He starts driving, I take the bomb and I'm holding it, literally, in my lap. We start driving away but there's hundreds of people crossing the street, so we're trying to clear them, I'm trying to move them with my hand, telling people 'Get out of the street.'"
They're desperately trying to get just a block and a half away, near 46th and 6th, where there are far fewer human lives -- it feels like eternity.
"I prayed and Sgt. Armani prayed. I gave myself the sign of the cross and I said 'God, just please take care of my family,'" said Cybulski.
"I was like 'God, how bad it's going to hurt,' and what got me really emotional, 'What's going to happen to my daughter?'" said Armani.
"We found an area that had no people around it. Sgt. Armani took the device from me and put it onto the sidewalk," said Cybulski. "We shut down the street, set up a perimeter and waited for our bomb squad to arrive."
Despite their willingness to lose life and limb, it turns out the so-called bomb was fake.
"I looked up at God, 'You're good, you're good.' But our job wasn't done," said Armani.
Far from done, Cybulski and Armani are dispatched 15 blocks away to Columbus Circle, where the madman is still on a terror mission.
"Columbus Circle and parts of Midtown effectively at a standstill," said WPIX reporter Anthony DiLorenzo, reporting from the scene where 52-year-old Hector Meneses held cops at bay. Meneses's van appeared rigged with explosives.
"Police really thought that they could possibly have a suicide bomber on their hands," DiLorenzo tells Crime Watch Daily.
A bomb squad robot determines there is no threat. Meneses is pepper-sprayed and arrested. A long night of bravery in the face of terror is finally over.
"I remember just crying on the train ride home," said Cybulski. "I just cried and just prayed and thanked God that I'm still alive."
"I appreciate everything in life, the air that I breathe, I appreciate that," said Armani.
"The bravery these two exhibited last night, I cannot emphasize enough," said former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.
"Every time I come here, I still get chills a little bit just thinking about what happened and how close we came to death," said Peter Cybulski.
"If you ask the average person 'Would you take a bullet for a stranger?' I'd say half the people would say no. We would," said Hameed Armani.
NYPD Sergeant Hameed Armani and Officer Peter Cybulski are the first two recipients of Crime Watch Daily's "Badge of Honor."
To help with all the important work the New York City Police Foundation does and to honor these two gentlemen, Crime Watch Daily is donating $5,000 to the foundation in honor of Sgt. Armani and Ofc. Cybulski.
If you would like to nominate someone in law enforcement to receive Crime Watch Daily's Badge of Honor, send us a message here.