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No terrorism link in fiery Rochester crash that killed 3, authorities say

A fiery crash that happened early Monday in front of Kodak Center on West Ridge Road in Rochester is being investigated by RPD and the FBI.
Max Schulte
Rochester police and the FBI are investigating a car crash and resulting explosion that happened early Monday, in front of the Kodak Center on West Ridge Road in Rochester.

Police say a 35-year-old Syracuse man is the suspected driver who caused a fiery crash early New Year's Day outside Kodak Center, killing himself and two others.

Michael Avery appears to have targeted concert-goers as they left the venue at 12:50 a.m. Monday, authorities said. Also killed were Justina Hughes, 28, of Geneva, and
Joshua Orr, 29, of Webster — both passengers in an Uber struck by Avery's rented SUV as he sped toward a crowd of people, police said.

There is nothing to indicate any social or political bias, and no suicide note or journal has been recovered, said Police Chief David Smith, contradicting national media reports. Federal authorities added they have found “no nexus to terrorism.”

Michael Avery, 35, is the suspected driver in a fiery crash that killed himself and two others on Jan. 1, 2024, in Rochester, NY.
Rochester Police Department
Michael Avery, 35, is the suspected driver in a fiery crash that killed himself and two others on Jan. 1, 2024 in Rochester, NY.

“Nothing so far has been recovered that provides any additional insight as to why this occurred,” Smith said, explaining that authorities have searched Avery’s personal vehicle and a Greece hotel room where he stayed. “Why Rochester, why this venue, we just don’t know.”

Smith said investigators have spoken with Avery’s family and think he might have had undiagnosed mental health issues.

“We are still gathering information,” Smith said.

According to police:

Avery traveled to Rochester on Dec. 27 and stayed at a WoodSpring Suites not far from the airport off Interstate 390 in Greece. He rented a Ford Expedition on Dec. 29 at the airport and left his personal vehicle parked there.

Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Dec. 30, he made at least a half dozen purchases of gas cans and gas in Monroe and Ontario counties. He appears to have been alone each time.

The deadly crash occurred at 12:52 a.m. Monday outside the venue on West Ridge Road.

A concert by the band moe. was just letting out and an estimated 1,000 people were leaving the area when the eastbound Expedition accelerated to a high rate of speed, veering into the oncoming traffic lane and appearing to target pedestrians.

A Mitsubishi Outlander, a rideshare with two passengers in the backseat, was exiting a parking lot at the time. The vehicles collided, sending both through a group of people in the crosswalk and into two other vehicles.

A large fire resulted that took firefighters an hour to extinguish. Once the blaze was extinguished, first responders discovered at least a dozen gas canisters in and around the Expedition.

The two people in the Outlander died. Several pedestrians were injured. Avery died Monday night.

Smith said Avery has not been “scientifically identified,” and stressed that all information remained preliminary.

This is a developing story. Check back later today for updates.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.