“A really good human being”

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Nicholas Cleves, who lived in Greenwich Village, was remembered as a “sweetheart,” “a terrific friend.”


  • Nicholas Cleves, 23, of Greenwich Street in New York City, was among the eight persons killed in yesterday's attack. Photo: Facebook.

For Halloween, Nicholas Cleves had put the perfect costume together. He would be Blondie, the “good” character played by Clint Eastwood, whom Cleves resembled, in the classic western, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

And Cleves was all good, friends are recalling two days after the Greenwich Village man was among eight killed in Tuesday’s rampage along the West Side Highway in what authorities are characterizing as a terror attack by an ISIS acolyte, Sayfullo Saipov, a Paterson, New Jersey, man who had planned his Halloween slaughter for two months.

Cleves, 23, of Greenwich Street, and Darren Drake, 32, from New Milford, New Jersey, were the two Americans killed by Saipov, who drove a rented truck onto the bike path at Houston Street and wreaked carnage for nearly a mile Tuesday afternoon. Five of those killed were from Argentina and one was from Belgium, police said.

“Nicholas was the true definition of what a really good human being is,” said Bobby Carlton, who had met Cleves at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs when Nicholas was a freshman.

“We would first talk about technology and as he visited more often ... we became friends,” Carlton, who was then the Apple coordinator at the campus store, said in a Facebook Messenger conversation yesterday afternoon. “He’d stop in and see me a few times a week. Just hang out at my desk and talk.”

Their friendship grew and Carlton would invite Cleves to his house to have dinner with him and his family. “He was always welcome in my home,” Carlton said.

Cleves would eventually tutor Carlton’s stepson. The two men stayed in touch even after Carlton left campus.

“I had left Skidmore before he graduated ... but I returned to see him graduate” in May 2016, Carlton, 47, said. That was the last time they would see each other.

The two had arranged to meet at New York Comic Con but Carlton needed to return a day early and they did not see each other, “something I regret,” Carlton said.

They spoke on the day Cleves was killed, when Nicholas called Carlton to ask his opinion of the Halloween costume.

“He looked great and he wanted to know if I knew who he was,” Carton said. “Nicholas was always having fun. he loved life he loved his family and he loved his friends ... he just enjoyed life. Every moment was important. Every moment had value.”

Another friend, Zoe Dartley, who, like Cleves, attended Skidmore College, wrote on Facebook that Cleves was “one of the kindest people I have had the pleasure of knowing.”

“There are tragedies too terrible to name — this is one of them,” Dartley wrote. “The rest of us can only hope to honor him by treating others with the generosity and open-heartedness that he offered.”

Cleves, who graduated from Skidmore with degrees in computer science and physics last year, was working as a software engineer and analyst at United Digital Group, according to his social media pages.

Cleves attended the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village from kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating in 2012. Phil Kassen, the schools’ director, described Cleves as a “kind, smart” person who was a “terrific friend” to classmates. “Many of his closest friends in adulthood were friendships from his time here,” he said.

Cleves was an intellectually curious student who teachers at the school remember for his genuine love of learning, Kassen said. “Even as a young adult, he was eager to understand the world and solve problems,” he said.

Carlton said Cleves took nothing for granted, “and that’s what made him such a loving and caring human being.”

Cleves, he said, used to come to Carlton’s work desk and have lunch. “And every single time, he’d have extra potato chips, and every single time he’d have leftover chips that he’d leave with me. I’m sure he did it on purpose. It was his way of just being a special person and using that moment to build on to our friendship. All through potato chips.”


At least 12 others were wounded in the attack, four of whom remained in critical but stable conditions at area hospitals yesterday morning, city Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. Three people had been released, while the rest were in serious condition, he said. An FDNY spokesman declined to provide an update on the injured.

Saipov, a 29-year-old from Uzbekistan living in Paterson with his family, was shot and wounded by a police officer who had been investigating an incident at nearby Stuyvesant High School. Saipov was indicted Wednesday on federal terrorism counts, one of which could bring the death penalty.

Saipov had driven drove off the bicycle path near the intersection of Chambers Street where the truck collided with a small school bus. He got out of the truck waiving what were later determined to be a pellet gun and a paint gun and shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” when he was shot by NYPD Officer Ryan Nash, a five-year department veteran assigned to the First Precinct. Saipov was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he was later questioned by authorities.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim outlined the federal charges filed against Saipov during a press briefing Wednesday evening. Saipov was indicted on charges of material support of a terrorism organization, namely ISIS, and violence and destruction of a motor vehicle resulting in multiple deaths.

“We have developed evidence establishing that Saipov committed this attack in support of ISIS,” Kim said.

A note found just outside the truck that read, in part, “Islamic supplication, will endure,” which Kim said commonly refers to ISIS. Cellphones in a bag Saipov was carrying held thousands of images and hundreds of videos, some of them brutal, he said.

He said that Saipov admitted that he was inspired by the videos and that he had planned and practiced the attack for the last two months by among other things renting the truck to learn his eventual route and how the truck steered.

The material support charge carries with it a maximum term of life in prison while the motor vehicle charge could lead to a death sentence, Kim said.

Sophie Herbut and Michael Garofalo contributed to this report.

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