EXCLUSIVE: Two Port Authority police officers are among those who have been interviewed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Corrupt Officials Unit about an alleged cover-up of an incident in which a department lieutenant ordered a PATH train carrying a suspicious package to travel from Jersey City to the World Trade Center before a bomb-sniffing dog could check it out, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
The officers each brought attorneys with them and “gave markedly different reports on the incident,” a source with direct knowledge of the probe told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Police Officer Jonathan Roche originally filed a detailed, typewritten account that “put Lt. O’Neill’s actions in a very bad light” and somehow didn’t become part of the official record, the source told the web site.
Meanwhile, Officer Aaron T. Woody submitted a “vague” two-line report that attempted to whitewash the incident, the source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
The Port Authority’s Internal Affairs Division was already looking into the case when, according to police records, Roche and Woody were summoned separately to the Wooster Street section of the DA’s office, Room 702, in Manhattan.
“Heads are going to roll,” the source predicted.
This came less than a month after a Bayonne man somehow walked through the same PATH tunnel from Manhattan to Exchange Place in Jersey City before a contractor spotted him. ( SEE: PATH Security breach )
As if that weren’t interesting on its own, Lt. James O’Neill — the officer who cleared the train’s six-minute ride from his desk at Journal Square — is scheduled to be transferred at the end of the month to Staten Island bridges, far from any trains, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT confirmed the New York Post’s report that O’Neill already was reprimanded last year for authorizing a PATH train to continue with a suspicious package on board.
This time, the source confirmed, O’Neill refused his colleagues’ angry insistence that he hold the train long enough for a bomb detection dog to get there. O’Neill made the call, the source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , because the civilian train master, who is responsible for making the trains run on time, complained to him about delays caused by the suspicious package, found under a seat at the end of the evening rush on June 1.
The dog was only a mile away, they said.
Critics said the 29-year veteran put the crew in danger — not to mention the Hudson PATH tube and the World Trade Center site. Given the history of 9/11, as well as plots to blow up the tunnel that have been thwarted, it wasn’t unreasonable to make sure this train was safe, they said.
Passengers were evacuated, but the engineer, brakeman, flagmen and conductors remained on board as the train continued through. It wasn’t until it got to the WTC that a bomb-detecting dog was brought in. As it turned out, the package contained a remotely controlled toy helicopter.
The original detailed report was filed soon after. Then the New York Post published an exclusive story pinpointing O’Neill’s role in the incident — after which the second report was produced, the source said.
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