Grand jury indicts Queens Place Mall bomb hoax suspects on terrorism charges

Police officers and FDNY units patrolled Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst in response to a bomb hoax on Jan. 4, 2021. (Photo by Dean Moses)

A Queens County grand jury on Wednesday, Feb. 10, indicted the two men allegedly behind the January bomb hoax that caused an evacuation of the Queens Place Mall in Elmhurst on terrorism charges.

Louis Shenker, 22, and Taylor Lyne, 27, were both charged with placing a fake bomb in the high-traffic area, making a terroristic threat and abandoning an animal, after the pair allegedly left a dog inside a car they had rigged to look like a bomb inside the mall’s parking garage on Jan. 4.

If convicted, both Shenker and Lyne each face seven years in prison.

In the early hours of Jan. 4, Shenker and Lyne were spotted by a security guard inside the parking garage standing next to a black Tesla with Nevada plates, according to authorities. The car’s hood, trunk and doors were open and the duo explained that the car had stalled and they were attempting to recharge it, according to the NYPD.

A few hours later, a mall employee saw the car covered in blankets with a dog inside, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. Wires stuck out from the top of the car and appeared to simulate a bomb, the DA said.

The hoax, which prompted a massive police presence, saw the shutdown and evacuation of the mall and surrounding businesses along Queens Boulevard. Later in the day, the device was deemed a hoax.

Shenker turned himself into a Brooklyn police precinct on Jan. 5, around 3 a.m., law enforcement officials said at the time.

Social media posts allegedly authored by the Amherst, Mass., man express right-wing conspiracies. An Instagram account believed to belong to Shenker used the “StopTheSteal” hashtag in its bio, a hashtag championed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters who falsely believe Trump won the November presidential election. The phrase is at the center of the prosecution’s arguments in Trump’s second impeachment trial, which began on Tuesday, Feb 9.

Lyne, who is from California, was arrested and arraigned on Feb. 1.

The two are set to appear back in court on March 3.