NEW YORK (AP) — Police were alerted and a Coast Guard station was locked down briefly after a photo surfaced of people carrying what appeared to be assault rifles near a bridge. But authorities later said there appeared to be no threat and the weapons may have been paintball guns.
Police issued an alert to officers after a retired colleague photographed the people and their cars on Friday in a parking lot on Staten Island near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Officers were told to be on the lookout for two vehicles with New Jersey license plates.
The photos appeared to show a man and a woman holding semi-automatic rifles and pointing them in the windows of two cars while smiling, New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner John Miller said. The photos were analyzed by firearms experts, and preliminary results have led police to suspect the weapons were paintball guns, he said.
NYPD officers and FBI agents questioned the owner of one of the cars, who told them he was planning to go to shoot the paintball guns with friends on Friday, Miller said.
Police cars were stationed near the bridge, which connects Staten Island and Brooklyn, and on roadways leading from Staten Island to New Jersey on Friday afternoon. Officers funneled traffic into one lane, which caused extensive delays during the evening commute. Travelers on the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing experienced delays of more than an hour.
Meanwhile, police patrols were added at bridges and tunnels in the city as part of its response after four Marines were shot dead Thursday in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Access to the nearby Coast Guard station returned to normal Friday afternoon. A spokesman, Petty Officer Iannazzo Simmons, said the station was placed on lockdown after police notified it of "an unconfirmed report of a threat." He said the lockdown was lifted and normal operations resumed when police determined the threat was "no longer significant."