Stolen Hummer Smashes Into BBQ Restaurant After Police Chase, Witnesses Say

By Julie ShapiroElizabeth Hagen and Murray Weiss  on September 18, 2012 3:52pm  | Updated on September 18, 2012 10:03pm

CHELSEA — A stolen Hummer tore through Chelsea Tuesday afternoon, smashing up an MTA bus and slamming into a cab, before jumping a curb and crashing through the front window of a BBQ restaurant on West 23rd Street, officials said.

At least eight people were hurt, four seriously, including several bystanders, during the wild spree, which ended when the black 2008 Hummer slammed into Rub BBQ on West 23rd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues about 2:20 p.m., witnesses and FDNY officials said.

Multiple witnesses said the Hummer was being chased by police, and an NYPD source confirmed that officers pursued the Hummer through Chelsea once they realized the vehicle was stolen.

"It wasn't like he just careened out of control," said Binijuktya Sen, 23, who lives on the second floor above Rub BBQ, and said he felt the crash shake his apartment. "Within five seconds there were three cop cars. Three or four cops ran out with guns drawn."

Tuesday afternoon's mayhem began at a Chelsea parking lot, on West 28th Street near Broadway, when two women who were dropping off the Hummer left the keys in the ignition, police sources said. The parking attendant was busy handling a ticket and couldn't take the car right away, sources said.

That's when the suspect, identified by police as 19-year-old Nicholas Stidwell, hopped into the car and drove away — but not before the startled parking attendant rushed over and jumped onto the Hummer's running board, sources said.

The parking attendant clung to the Hummer's side for several blocks, until he was finally able to hop off when the vehicle slowed at a red light at 25th Street and Broadway, sources said. The attendant was not hurt.

After police saw the parking attendant fall and heard him shouting that the Hummer was stolen, they began chasing the car, police sources said. The Hummer continued its crazed ride, driving on the sidewalk at least twice and sending pedestrians running for their lives, witnesses said.

Police took Stidwell into custody after the crash at Rub BBQ, and he was being evaluated at Bellevue Hospital, an NYPD spokeswoman said. He was later charged with grand larceny of an automobile and unauthorized use of an automobile, the NYPD said.

The eight people who were injured included an MTA bus driver and four bus passengers, along with a pedestrian who fell while avoiding the Hummer, officials said. Five patients were taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, two were taken to Beth Israel Medical Center and one refused medical attention, an FDNY spokesman said. None of the injuries were life-threatening, the FDNY said.

The chaos took place just blocks from where President Barack Obama was expected to appear Tuesday evening at a fundraiser held by Jay-Z and Beyonce at the 40/40 Club.

Francie Scott, who works nearby, said she heard the Hummer scrape up against the metal barricades that lined 25th Street for the president's visit — and then she turned to see the car speeding down the sidewalk.

"It happened so fast," Scott said. "I saw him coming down to a group of people on the corner and saw them jump out of the way. One woman tripped.... She was visibly shaken [but] rolled out of the way."

Witnesses said they saw police with their guns drawn pulling the Hummer's driver out of the car. He appeared to be hurt but was still breathing, witnesses said.

Andrew Fischel, 43, who has owned Rub BBQ for the past seven years, was in the restaurant's basement when the Hummer crashed through the plate-glass window.

"I heard a very large smash, and then I heard people yelling for me crazily and I ran upstairs and there it was," Fischel said. "It's going to cost a lot of damage. A lot of lost time operating."

Fischel said one of his employees suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Witnesses said the Hummer took out took out barricades along Broadway and jumped the curb while barreling down 25th Street toward Sixth Avenue. The Hummer then turned south onto Sixth Avenue, heading against traffic, and struck an MTA bus before as it swung west onto 23rd Street, witnesses said.

"It clipped the bus and then drove down [23rd Street] like a bat out of hell," said a witness, who declined to give his name.

Then, while speeding down 23rd Street, the Hummer then hit a cab and spun onto the sidewalk, smashing into Rub BBQ, witnesses said.

Kris O'Brian, 32, said he narrowly avoided getting hit by the Hummer on Broadway near 25th Street.

"If I didn't step backwards, he would have literally run me over," O'Brian said. "It was intense. I've lived in New York a long time [and] it's been a while since I've seen anything like that."

With reporting by Carla Zanoni.

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