NJ homeless man who wanted backpack found bombs instead

Posted at 1:09 AM, Sep 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-21 01:33:22-04

Lee Parker needs a backpack.

He’s homeless and he uses a blue garbage bag to carry his belongings.

So when he and his friend saw a backpack in a garbage can near a train station Sunday in Elizabeth, New Jersey, they grabbed it.

“When I noticed the bag I said, ‘This is fine, I can have this for work, I can put my lunch in,'” Parker told CNN affiliate CBS New York.

As soon as they looked inside, they knew they had to call police.

“I knew what I was looking at as soon as I saw it,” his friend, Ivan White, told CNN affiliate WABC. “It wasn’t the cartoon bomb with the tick-tock tick-tock, but it had wires.”

The mess of wires and pipes turned out to be five bombs. Authorities believe they are connected to explosions the day before in New York City and Seaside, New Jersey.

Police responded to their 911 call. One of the bombs was detonated on site by an bomb squad robot.

Now, the men are being hailed as heroes in their community. A local homeless shelter set up an online fundraiser for the two men. A portion of the proceeds will benefit a coalition for the homeless.

“Had it not been for these heroes, Elizabeth, NJ, would have experienced a devastating terrorist attack,” the organization says on the campaign page. “We are raising money for these two heroes who have done much for our community.”

“Hero? Nah, I won’t go that far,” Parker told WABC, adding he was “just doing the right thing.”

“I’m just glad I was able tor realize what the situation was and react in such a way that, thank goodness, no one got hurt,” said White, an Elizabeth resident.

Parker says he still needs a backpack. He’s hoping the attention brings some good fortune his way.