Man emulating 'Fight Club' arrested in Starbucks blast

Seventeen-year-old who mimicked cult film arrested after he spoke to friends about his own 'project mayhem'

Globe and Mail (AP)
July 16, 2021
By Colleen Long, New York

A 17-year-old mimicking Brad Pitt's Fight Club character, who plans attacks on corporate America, was arrested for masterminding a pre-dawn blast outside a Starbucks Coffee shop, police said Wednesday.

Kyle Shaw was arrested Tuesday night on charges of arson, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal mischief, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

He was awaiting arraignment Wednesday and it wasn't clear whether he had an attorney. A message left at his home was not immediately returned.

The May 25 explosion near the Guggenheim museum on the Upper East Side shattered the store's windows but caused no injuries, and police do not believe it is related to other explosions around the city in the past four
years: at the British consulate in May 2005; the Mexican consulate in October 2007 and the Times Square military recruiting station in March 2008.

Commissioner Kelly said Mr. Shaw was trying to emulate the character Tyler Durden from the 1999 film about a spineless office worker, played by Ed Norton, who forms an alter-ego as the dangerous yet manly Mr. Durden. The two halfs of the same person take part in a secret "fight club," where men beat one another to a pulp in an attempt to feel more alive.

Mr. Shaw formed his own fight club in which boys beat one another in various locales around the city including Central Park, Commissioner Kelly said. At least one member got a broken nose, he said.

The second, more dastardly plot hatched by Mr. Pitt's character in the film was called "project mayhem" and included escalating attacks on symbols of corporate America.

Mr. Shaw apparently told at least one friend to "watch the news over Memorial Day" - a federal holiday at the end of May - because he was about to launch his own version of "project mayhem," Commissioner Kelly said.
Investigators are looking into whether more people might have been involved.

Police say the suspect picked the site because a Starbucks was a target in the movie. It wasn't clear why the specific coffee shop was chosen. There are dozens around the city.

The blast occurred around 3:30 a.m. A witness reported seeing two people, one blond, running from the scene. The device, made of fireworks powder, a plastic bottle, a metal cap and electrical tape, was set off with a hand-lit fuse.

Investigators recovered homemade bomb materials, a copy of Fight Club , a box of sparklers and a newspaper clipping about the attack from Shaw's home, Kelly said.

Investigators are still working to identify suspects in the other blasts and believe they were caused by the same person or group of people, Commissioner Kelly said.

In those bombings, a lone bicyclist was seen in the area before the blasts, caused by either phoney grenades or canisters packed with explosive powder. No was hurt in those blasts, either.

In all cases, the explosions were "powerful enough to have caused serious injury or death," Commissioner Kelly said.

The Starbucks Corp has said it didn't believe its store was hit intentionally. A spokesperson said Wednesday the company was aware of the arrest but could not comment further because the investigation is ongoing.