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Suspicious SUV sparks bomb scare at American Museum of Natural History

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Suspicious SUV sparks bomb scare at American Museum of Natural History

BY SIMONE WEICHSELBAUM AND JOHN LAUINGER

Originally Published:Sunday, May 9th 2010, 1:47 PM

Updated: Sunday, May 9th 2010, 5:40 PM

NYPD's bomb squad check out a suspicious SUV parked outside the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

A dopey BMW employee parked a running SUV outside the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, prompting Manhattan's third headline-grabbing bomb scare in just over a week.

Police rushed in to shut down a swath of Central Park West and smashed the vehicle's rear window as the bomb squad suited up in protective gear.

It turned out to be a false alarm: The boneheaded BMW driver had managed to leave the shrink-wrapped X3 prototype running while he went off to enjoy a Sunday afternoon in Central Park.

"It's a misunderstanding," driver Martin Birkmann said after cops reopened the street following the 90-minute scare. "I was test-driving it."

The SUV, due for release later this year, was parked on Central Park West near 78th St. Its exterior was covered in plastic wrap stamped with white swirls, and black tarps hid its interior. The "camouflage" is used to "disguise the look of the car in advance of market launch," BMW spokeswoman Stacy Morris said.

But coming on the heels of May 1's botched car bomb in Times Square, the SUV was especially suspicious to a woman walking her dog. She quickly called cops, a witness said.

"She stopped to look at it," said Al Simmons, 58, who was working at his nearby hot dog stand. "New York City is still safe ... but we have to look out for each other. If you see something, say something."

Police responding to the 12:23 p.m. scare closed off Central Park West for several blocks in both directions.

Cops quickly discovered there was nothing sinister inside the SUV, but the spectacle was enough to frighten tourists leaving the museum.

"We thought it was a line to go to the exhibition, with all the chaos," said Gina Grapes of Morris County, N.J., who was with her 12-year-old son, Daniel. "People said it was a bomb scare. I was like,'Oh, God.'"

Cops ticketed Birkmann for idling, police said.

On Friday - six days after cops say Faisal Shahzad, 30, parked an SUV with a bomb in Times Square - the police shut down part of the Crossroads of the World based on a report of a suspicious package.

It turned out to be a cooler with nothing more lethal than water inside.

link:

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/05/09/2010-05-09_suspicious_car_sparks_bomb_scare_at_american_museum_of_natural_history.html#ixzz0nTJDYx8O

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