As leads dwindle in the investigation into the Central Park explosion that blew off the lower leg of a visiting college student, authorities have announced a $40,000 reward in the case, noting the compound used in the explosive has been seen in recent attacks overseas.
Local and federal authorities made the announcement Wednesday morning in a renewed push for the public's help in tracking down the person or people who left the explosive that claimed Connor Golden's lower leg. It comes a day after top NYPD and ATF investigators first told the I-Team about their new mission in the case.
"We're still missing a lot of answers," said NYPD Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce at a news conference Wednesday morning. "That's why we're reaching out to the public."
On July 3, 2016, Golden, then a University of Miami freshman, jumped off a rock formation near the Central Park entrance by Fifth Avenue in the vicinity of 60th Street. When he landed, the device someone had left on the ground blew off his lower leg. Golden now walks with the help of a prosthesis.
Investigators are asking any visitors to Central Park who may have taken photos around that time period to come forward.
"At any given time there are multiple people climbing on or around this rock formation to get a better view of Central Park and the pond," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict.
Authorities are hoping to narrow a timeline as to when the "extremely dangerous" explosive was placed, as well as identify potential suspects.
For fear of inspiring copycat explosions, both the NYPD and ATF have avoided naming the specific compound that blew off Golden's lower leg. But officials said Wednesday it was made of material that are commercially obtainable.
The compound isn't common in the U.S., but they've been used in terror attacks in Europe in recent years, according to police. The NYPD is working with federal partners at the ATF to figure out if similar devices have been found in other parts of the country.
"We've seen compounds like this used by terrorists in suicide belts in the recent Paris Bataclan theater attack," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller. "We've seen it used in the Brussels airport bombings. We've seen it used in the 777 bombings in London targeting the subways."
But, he added, "we've also seen it experimented with by people who have nothing to do with terrorism, and people in between," noting a University of Oklahoma student who committed suicide using the explosive in 2005.
Police maintain there's no indication that the Central Park explosive had any connection to terrorism.
"If you look at the totality of the circumstances -- it was not formed into an improvised explosive device, there wasn't a timer, shrapen land other things," said Miller. "And it was left 50 feet from the main road on one of the most crowded weekends in Central Park, which, if you go by the indicators, does not really comport with the training procedures or tactics of a terrorist group that might experiment with an explosive like that," said Miller.
Boyce added there's simply "a lot of unknowns" in the investigation, adding to the urgency of recruiting the public's help.
The combined reward money is being offered by both the NYPD and the ATF for information leading to a conviction of the person or people responsible for the explosive. Police are urging anyone with information -- "no detail is too small," the NYPD said -- to contact them at 800-577-TIPS or at nypdcrimestoppers.com.
Last fall, in an exclusive I-Team interview, Connor Golden's family expressed doubt the explosion could have been a mistake or an accident.
"These explanations that somehow someone was playing with these materials in the park makes no sense to me,” Connor's father Kevin Golden said at the time. “In one of the most watched areas of the country ... you don't go there with this volatile compound that is explosive on contact."
Connor Golden has so far declined to speak publicly about the blast that took his lower leg, but his family has become increasingly concerned that the unsolved explosion case is fading from public consciousness. The Golden family, from Fairfax County, Virginia, has tried to use a GoFundMe page to reach out to the public directly. They’ve also raised more than $85,000 for future medical expenses not covered by insurance.
The I-Team was first to reveal how insurance claims for Connor’s prosthesis have been denied and delayed.