Volume 74, Number 13 | July 28 - August 03 , 2004

Ex-cop involved in explosion checks into hospital

By David H. Ellis

Villager photo by Robert Stolarik

Alberto Rodriguez, brother of Joseph Rodriguez, the police officer involved in the pipe bomb subway discovery, left Joseph’s Downtown apartment Thursday.

Checking himself into Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for a psychological evaluation, the former police officer suspected of planting a pipe bomb in the 42nd St. subway station remained out of sight last Thursday despite a brief appearance by his brother.

Outside Joseph Rodriguez’s apartment at 280 Mulberry St., a six-floor walkup building just south of Houston St., there was little activity besides several news trucks parked across the street and reporters milling around the building’s entrance. Late in the afternoon, Joseph’s brother, Alberto, hurriedly exited the building with the brim of his baseball cap pulled over his eyes. Carrying several bags, he shoved the camera of a Villager photographer and refused to answer questions about Joseph before being whisked away in the back seat of a livery cab.

On Mon., July 19 at around 8 p.m., Joseph Rodriguez, a 27-year-old retired member of the Manhattan Transit Task Force, warned subway commuters heading towards the A, C and E platform of a flaming bag that contained a pipe bomb. Rodriguez, who suffered injuries to his left eye and leg after the homemade explosive detonated, came under scrutiny after police noticed his psychological history and his neglect to call 911 after discovering the device. Rodriguez was being released from the N.Y.P.D. on a psychological disability pension before he officially retired Wednesday. Reportedly, Rodriguez suffered from emotional trauma during his rookie year with the police force after rushing to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the attacks, Rodriguez’s superiors, who were concerned about his mental state, ordered him to surrender his firearm and placed him in an administrative position within the Transit division.

A combined police and Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms search of his apartment Wednesday evening, which included using bomb-sniffing dogs, indicated that the police investigation had shifted its focus to Rodriguez. Even though he has not been charged with any crime, law enforcement officers confiscated several computers and firearm permits licensed to other individuals that were discovered in his apartment. Rodriguez did work for a gun retailer, John Jovino Co., before joining the N.Y.P.D.

On a street where the most common sight is stylish women in sunglasses toting shopping bags from the nearby boutiques, neighbors and storeowners seemed to know little about the 27-year-old Rodriguez.

“I didn’t know who he was,” said Rocky Kim, a clerk at the Houston Village Farm deli just a half a block away. “When I saw in the newspaper and learned that he lived on the block, I was stunned.”

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