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Pelham Bay rocked by bombshell incident

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The NYPD has made an arrest in a bombshell case that rocked Pelham Bay last week.

On Wednesday, March 2, at approximately 7:10 p.m., a 24-year-old male driver and a 28-year-old female passenger driving in a red 2015 Nissan Versa four-door hatchback on the northeast corner of Mahan and Roberts avenues were the targets of an attempted but failed car bombing plot.

According to an NYPD spokeswoman, the driver stated that while he was driving, he noticed smoke bellowing from the car’s rear tires and stepped out of the vehicle to investigate.

When he checked, the driver noticed that the left rear tire was flat and discovered two aerosol cans with a detonator taped to the car’s undercarriage.

The rental car’s airbags also deployed. The car sported Ohio license plates.

NYC Bomb Squad personnel, as well as police officers from the 45th Precinct were immediately dispatched to the scene and taped off the block as they investigated the bizarre incident.

The NYPD spokeswoman also confirmed that only one of the two aerosol cans, which were filled with nails, had successfully detonated.

Neither the driver or the passenger sustained any injuries from the explosion.

On Sunday, March 6, 45th Precinct police arrested 36-year-old Richard Laugel in connection with the failed car bombing plot.

Laugel, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, was charged with attempted murder, arson and criminal possession of a weapon, police confirmed.

A 3030 Middletown Road resident, Laugel previously owned Drop and Fold Laundromat, formerly located at 3021 Middletown Road, before its closure.

However, police did not present any information regarding Laugel’s motive or his relationship with the victims, although, according to other sources, it is alleged that the incident could have stemmed from illegal drugs.

“When I first heard the loud boom, I thought it was an earthquake,” said Mary Masillo, a Pelham Bay resident who lives on the next block. “There was no way you couldn’t have heard it if you were in the area - and you could also see people running away afterwards.”

“In cases such as this one, you’ve really have to wonder what goes on in some people’s minds to think that this is the right way to resolve an issue between two people,” said Bob Bieder, the 45th Precinct Community Council president.

According to Bieder, captain Danielle Raia, commanding officerof the 45th, confirmed that this incident was a targeted attack and not terrorism-related at Thursday, March 3’s precinct community council meeting.

“This is an isolated incident unlike anything we’ve ever heard about happening in Pelham Bay before,” said Councilman James Vacca. “It’s such a quiet neighborhood - there’s no doubt that when the bomb went off, it really startled a lot of people.”

Vacca also commended the 45th Precinct for their investigative work leading to Sunday’s apprehension of a suspect.

Last week’s incident happened right next to Our Lady of Assumption Church.

The church, including Fr. John Knappe, pastor, preferred not to comment, citing lack of information since they weren’t present at the time of the incident.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

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