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Saturday, May 8, 2010
LocalHow car-buff NYPD Detective John Wright got Times Square car bomb probe in gear

How car-buff NYPD Detective John Wright got Times Square car bomb probe in gear

Thursday, May 6th 2010, 4:45 AM

The SUV involved in Faisal Shahzad's thwarted Times Square car bombing.
Giancarli for News
The SUV involved in Faisal Shahzad's thwarted Times Square car bombing.

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Detective John Wright was home in Hempstead, L.I., renovating his bathroom Saturday night, oblivious to what was going on in the outside world, when he got a call to respond to Times Square.

The son of a mechanic and a proud "car guy," Wright located the first and most important link in the complex chain that led to the bombing suspect: the vehicle identification number on the Nissan Pathfinder parked on W. 45th St.

Suspect Faisal Shahzad had removed the VIN from the Pathfinder's dashboard and taken the VIN sticker off the door.

But just hours after the SUV was discovered, armed with a flashlight and a greasy rag, Wright, 46, peered under the hood and easily located the number stamped on the SUV's engine block.

"Some guys have a knack for guns. Some guys have a knack for drugs. I have a knack for cars," said Wright, a 22-year veteran assigned to the NYPD's Auto Crime Division.

"This is what I love to do."

It was 7:30 a.m. in a police lab in Queens when Wright called out the number, and a colleague jotted it down.

The investigation took off from there at a gallop.

The VIN led to 19-year-old Peggy Colas in Connecticut, who had just sold the car for $1,300 cash to a stranger from craigslist.

She didn't know his name, but she had the number of his prepaid cell phone.

The FBI traced all calls to and from the number.

One number that came up four times was from a Pakistani mobile phone number listed to a Faisal Shahzad, the criminal complaint said.

He had given the number to the Customs and Border Protection agency in February when he returned to the U.S. from Pakistan, officials said.

Colas was shown photos: she picked out Shahzad as the man who bought her Pathfinder for 13 $100 bills.

More links connected Shahzad to the bomb: One of a bundle of keys in the ignition of the smoking Pathfinder opened the door to his home in Connecticut. Another started his black Isuzu Rodeo.

Fifty-three hours after a street vendor first saw smoke coming from the Pathfinder, Faisal was busted at JFK.

rparascandola@nydailynews.com

With James Gordon Meek

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