William Harris, a U.S. Marine veteran from Pearl River, was just named Firefighter of the Year by the New York-New Jersey Firefighter’s Association for bravery stemming from last Halloween’s terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.
Harris got involved after the alleged suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, crashed his Home Depot rental truck into a school bus on Chambers Street.
Minutes earlier, the Uzbekistan native had mowed down several pedestrians and cyclists on the West Side Highway bike path just blocks away from the World Trade Center. Eight were killed and dozens injured.
Harris spotted Saipov exiting the rental truck and noticed he was brandishing two guns. Though they were later determined to be a pellet gun and paintball gun, the Rockland County resident sprang into action. He tried to run the suspect down with his truck and then chased him on foot.
Harris, a 25-year volunteer firefighter, had no idea at the time that the ISIS sympathizer had just committed the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9-11.
He continued to pursue the suspect, who allegedly was shouting “Allahu Akbar,” until a city police officer shot him in the abdomen. Harris said he then kicked the guns out of Saipov’s hands.
The suspect survived and was taken into custody. He is scheduled to go on trial in October 2019.
Harris, meanwhile, has been feted as a hero since the incident. He was awarded the Key to Rockland County last fall and has gotten several commendations and medals of merit.
The 42-year-old father of two young children noted that while he chased the suspect, several bystanders either cowered or were too busy getting video with their smart phones. He urged people to take action if they see something unusual.
Harris said he gets frightened when he thinks of what could have happened, but he noted he would do it again to protect innocent people.