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Fake bomb in rental car scares travelers at LGA

A mock bomb — actually two road flares taped to an electronic timer — looked real enough for officers to seal off and evacuate the National Car Rental office and garage at Ditmars Boulevard and 95th Street last...

By Alex Ginsberg

It was meant to scare someone, and it did.

A mock bomb — actually two road flares taped to an electronic timer — looked real enough for officers to seal off and evacuate the National Car Rental office and garage at Ditmars Boulevard and 95th Street last Thursday morning in the midst of the Fourth of July weekend rush, police said.

“The bomb squad determined that it was a hoax-type device,” said Assistant Chief James Tuller, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens North.

National employees found the mock bomb at the agency, which is near LaGuardia Airport, along with a real Tec-9 handgun inside a Dodge Caravan rented May 23, police said.

The vehicle was not returned by its June 23 due date, and National eventually located the vehicle after it had collected several parking tickets in front of 2-10 27th Ave. in Astoria, according to authorities. Employees of the agency picked up the van last Thursday morning and upon returning to the office, made the startling discovery.

Officers later arrested Kareem Davis, 27, of Manhattan, on a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, police said. Davis reportedly told police he loaned the vehicle to another individual, and no charges related to the fake bomb had been filed as of Wednesday morning.

As police officers and firefighters surrounded the office last Thursday morning, National workers tried to organize transportation to John F. Kennedy International Airport for about 10 would-be car renters forced out by the scare.

One of those customers, Isabel Fenton, had arrived from Detroit with her boyfriend at 10:10 a.m. and was at the front of the line to pick up her rental car when the authorities arrived.

“We were just about to get the keys and they said, ‘Everybody out of the building!’” she said as she sat sprawled on her suitcase on the sidewalk near 94th Street.

Another visitor on her first trip to New York City said the experience would not give her a bad impression of the metropolis.

“This can happen anywhere,” said Shannon Rossi of Lexington, Ky., in town with her husband, Eric, for a Long Island wedding.

A National Car Rental agent, Mercy Bareto, said three cars would be transporting the customers to National’s facility at Kennedy Airport. It was not clear what further action might be taken as customers continued to arrive from the airport.

Also inconvenienced were riders of the M60, Q33 and other city and private buses that serve LaGuardia Airport. With police closing streets around the car rental office, those buses were forced to stop at 23rd Avenue and 94th Street, discharging their passengers two blocks from the main terminal.

Kwadjo and Yaw Anakwa, two brothers from Peoria, Ill., returning home after visiting a relative in Harlem, lugged their suitcases down 94th Street toward the overpass spanning the highway.

Kwadjo said the bus driver had simply pulled over and said, “Everyone listen carefully. The airport is closed and this is as far as we’re going.”

The airport did remain open during the scare.

Most travelers seemed to take the inconvenience with patience, even Rossi, who was six months pregnant with her second child.

“I’m pregnant and I’m hormonal!” she joked.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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