Federal agents have joined the NYPD as the department investigates a package left on a porch that exploded when a Queens man opened it on Friday.
The small, cylindrical package was left on the porch of a home on 222nd Street in Springfield Gardens, according to NYPD Chief Robert Boyce. The 73-year-old landlord of the home, which is rented to two families, opened it after it had apparently been left there for days.
When he did, it exploded in his hands, erupting in a cloud of smoke and covering him in flames, Boyce said.
The man suffered second and third-degree burns to 80 percent of his body, mostly to his torso and legs. He was in critical condition at Nassau University Medical Center on Friday night.
Neighbors said they heard a boom and came out to find the man stunned on the ground.
"A big explosion, and when I look up I see a big cloud of smoke," said Audrey Campbell. "He was in shock, he wasn't yelling. Somebody, another neighbor, bring a towel to out the fire. His clothes was all gone — burned up."
The front of the man's house was visibly damaged in the blast, with smokey ash seen covering the front door. Video from the scene shows the man kneeling, his clothes in tatters and much of his body badly burned.
There was a heavy police and fire presence near the intersection of 222nd Street and 154th Road after the explosion. The FDNY isolated the block and evacuated people.
Boyce said the device is considered low-explosive and appears to have produced no shrapnel. He said the package, which is a cardboard tube, exploded when the man opened the top and that there was a black powder inside.
"There is substantial evidence left from this device, which appears to be a victim-actuated device," Boyce said. "In other words, when he opened it, the explosion occurred."
Boyce said the package was addressed to a single name and had no postal address. He said it appears to have been left on the porch for several days and that the two families who live in the home didn't pick it up. That's when their landlord decided to open it.
A senior law enforcement official said the name on the package doesn't match anyone who lives at the home. Mail carriers who were interviewed said they didn't deliver it, which has led investigators to believe it was hand-delivered, although postage had been placed on the box.
The official called the device simple but well-crafted. Remnants of the package have been sent to a lab as authorities try to figure out where the parts were purchased. Video cameras in the area are also being reviewed; authorities believe the package was left on Tuesday.
It's believed the landlord, who owns a number of properties in the area, was not the intended target since he opened the package at random, the official said. Police are interviewing residents of the home to see if someone would have reason to target them.
Federal officials, including agents from the FBI and ATF, as well as U.S. Postal inspectors, are part of the investigation. Boyce said the NYPD and other agencies would be at the "active crime scene" through the night, canvassing for evidence.