NEW YORK – A self-described American nationalist suspected of leaving a hoax explosive device in a car at a New York City mall is facing criminal charges after turning himself in to police, authorities said Tuesday.
Louis Shenker, 22, will be charged with placing a false bomb, criminal possession of stolen property and abandonment of a disabled animal in connection with the episode Monday at the Queens Place Mall in Elmhurst, said detective Denise Moroney, a police spokesperson.
The mall was evacuated around 7:30 a.m. Monday after a device that was made to look like an explosive was found in a black Tesla parked on a ramp in a parking garage. A dog — a husky — was also found in the vehicle, which had a Nevada license plate and had been reported stolen in that state.
Shenker surrendered to officers around 3 a.m. Tuesday in Brooklyn. The Queens district attorney's office said that it was preparing paperwork on Shenker's charges and that he was expected to be arraigned later Tuesday.
Being led from a police station in handcuffs, Shenker claimed that the suspicious device was actually a rig to charge the Tesla's dead battery. He mocked media coverage as “fake news” and derided reporters covering his arrest as "morons.”
“It was a Tesla car being charged," Shenker said. “... It was literally a car being charged because the battery died.”
Shenker, who has described himself on social media as a “patriot” and a supporter of President Donald Trump, was previously arrested Dec. 30 on suspicion of torching a poster attached to a police barricade in Manhattan. He was arraigned Friday and released without bail.
A message seeking comment was left for Shenker's lawyer in that case.
Police tweeted a photo showing an aerosol-type can, a roll of duct tape, wires and other items recovered from the car. Another photo showed a Black Lives Matter poster among the items. Investigators were looking into whether the poster was left there as a diversion, possibly to make it appear as if members of the movement were responsible for the hoax bomb.
Shenker has appeared on the online conspiracy show InfoWars and has filled his social media accounts with far-right views and buzzwords like “#MAGA” and “#StopTheSteal,” noting his support of Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Shenker was expelled from the University of Massachusetts Amherst amid a controversy over his views. His lawyers alleged that he was a victim of anti-white and anti-Jewish attacks and that faculty members conspired to file false hate crimes charges against him because his views did not align with theirs.
A message seeking comment was left with the university's media relations office.
On a since-suspended Instagram account, Shenker mocked the practice of people including their pronouns by listing his as “American / Patriot,” and has posted online attacks on Black Lives Matter, pushed conspiracy theories, and railed against the use of masks and lockdowns to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, a protest group accused Shenker of disrupting a Black Lives Matter vigil near Mayor Bill de Blasio's residence and turning it into a pro-Trump, anti-de Blasio “Chanukah Rave." A video posted to social media showed a man purported to be Shenker threatening to send the Proud Boys and Infowars host Alex Jones after a woman attending the vigil.
Police said the Tesla in Monday's episode was found parked halfway up the garage’s circular ramp, positioned in the center of the roadway in a manner that prevented other vehicles from passing. Police said the husky appeared to be OK.
Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak