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New York police identify ‘person of interest’ as Brooklyn subway shooter remains at large

Keys found at the scene of the attack belong to a U-Haul van rented by Frank R. James, 62, who has addresses in Philadelphia and the Milwaukee area, police said.

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New York: The New York City Police Department has identified a person of interest in the chaotic Tuesday morning-rush-hour shooting at a Brooklyn subway station that left 23 people injured. The shooter remains at large.

Keys found at the scene of the attack belong to a U-Haul van rented by Frank R. James, 62, who has addresses in Philadelphia and the Milwaukee area, police said. Detectives were searching for James, who rented the van in Philadelphia, but didn’t know if he was the shooter.

Officials identified a number of social media posts linked to James about Mayor Eric Adams, the city and homelessness, findings that prompted the NYPD to increase the mayor’s personal security as he remains isolated with Covid at Gracie Mansion.

“Today was a difficult day in New York,” Adams said at the briefing Tuesday, appearing live virtually on a television screen.

The suspect — identified as a dark-skinned, heavy-set man — set off two smoke grenades on a Manhattan-bound N train and then fired a Glock 17 9 mm handgun at least 33 times. Ten people had gunshot wounds as a rush out of the smoke-filled train car led to injuries among 13 others, police said.

Authorities initially responded to reports of smoke at about 8:30 a.m. at the 36th Street station, which serves the D, N and R lines. Responders encountered wounded commuters along with several undetonated devices. An investigation ensued throughout the day.

The attack set off a massive manhunt involving thousands of NYPD officers. Detectives found 33 shell cases, three extended magazines, two undetonated smoke devices, a hatchet, a rolling cart and a U-Haul key in a bag of belongings the shooter left behind in the subway station. Police said that the van key led investigators to a U-Haul nearby in Brooklyn.

The incident isn’t being investigated as an act of terrorism but the police department isn’t ruling it out, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said earlier. A motive isn’t yet known and five people remain in critical condition. There are no known explosive devices on the subway, and children at five nearby schools who were sheltered in place until dismissal have fully evacuated.

National problem

On Tuesday night, after numerous television interviews, Mayor Adams sought to frame the violence as an “American problem,” calling the shooting part of a national wave of gun violence hitting cities across the U.S.

Adams staked his campaign for mayor last year on reducing crime and has spent the first 100 days of his administration trying to address a spike in gun violence in the city.

“Days like this are playing out too often in cities across America,” he said. “It’s going to take an entire nation to speak out and push back.”

The incident comes as the city desperately tries to revive tourism, bring back office workers, and boost subway ridership, which remains at around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. Crime, rather than Covid, has kept many New Yorkers at home or off the subways despite Adams’s promises to increase police presence in train stations and throughout the city to blunt an uptick in crime.

The shooting marks the 41st mass shooting event in New York City since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit data project. Mass shooting events are those in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are injured or killed by a firearm. There were 17 mass shooting events in New York City last year.

Station camera

Adams said earlier that initial reports show that surveillance cameras at the subway station had malfunctioned. The NYPD also said there were no police officers present at the station when the incident occured, though officers had conducted routine checks earlier that morning.

Officials said they were offering a $50,000 reward for people who call in with more information and continue to investigate two active crime scenes — the subway station and the van. The NYPD, along with members from the FBI and ATF, will continue their hunt for the suspect.

“This individual is still on the loose,” Governor Kathy Hochul said earlier. “The NYPD, FDNY, state police, everyone involved in this has one purpose, and that’s to stop the insanity of these crimes.”

Train delays, schools

Public schools in the area had entered “shelter-in” mode, attending class as usual but not leaving the building, according to Nathaniel Styer, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education. School officials discouraged parents from picking up their children in an effort to limit movement in and out of the building and police later provided additional support to help families get their kids home.

Commuters experienced major delays on numerous train lines and urged to take alternate lines or buses as officers inspected stations and trains across the city. The D, N and R trains resumed making local stops in both directions and are still experiencing delays, while B and W trains remain suspended, according to the MTA. A spokesperson for the MTA declined to say how long the transit system expects service to be disrupted.

Taryn Boley of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood was on an N train that arrived at the platform at 8:35 a.m.. Her train had stopped for two minutes between 25th and 36th Streets, with an announcement about a smoke condition. But there was “a lack of communication” as riders stepped onto the platform, she said.

“When the doors opened it was chaos,” said Boley, 26, who manages a neuropsychology and therapy practice in Industry City. “People were huddling, maybe thinking they had to shelter in place. My main objective was to get out of the station.”

A young man on the stairwell, his leg bleeding extensively, was texting as he was being attended by two emergency medical technicians, Boley said. Outside the station, “hordes of high school students who looked horrified” stood amid police cars, ambulances and a fire truck.

Officials briefed

President Biden was briefed on the shooting and White House senior staff were in touch with Mayor Adams and NYPD Commissioner Sewell to offer assistance.

Biden had joined Adams earlier this year in New York to talk about getting guns off the streets, highlighting a string of violent acts that have gripped the city. Last month, two men were shot, one fatally, by an individual who was traveling between Washington D.C and New York to shoot homeless people. In January, Michelle Go, a 40-year-old manager at consulting firm Deloitte, was shoved on the tracks and killed at the Times Square subway station.

The MTA has struggled to restore subway ridership to pre-pandemic levels while crime and people seeking shelter in the system have increased. About 3.3 million people ride the subway during the weekday, down from an average 5.5 million in 2019, according to the MTA’s latest ridership data. The 36th Street station was serving about 13,342 weekday riders in 2019 before the pandemic. It served about 6,000 in 2020, and saw about 9,000 in February 2022.

The last incident involving an explosive in New York City’s subway occurred in December 2017, when a Bangladeshi immigrant, Akayed Ullah, detonated a pipe bomb he was wearing in the subway tunnel between Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Ullah, who told police he was inspired by Islamic State, was later sentenced to life in prison after being convicted at trial. –Bloomberg


Also read: 13 people shot in Brooklyn subway station, undetonated devices found


 

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