Jim Mustian, Jennifer Peltz, Michael R. Sisak and Michael Balsam
NEW YORK (AP) – A gunman in a gas mask fired smoke grenades and fired a barrage of bullets at a subway train at rush hour in Brooklyn, injuring at least 10 people on Tuesday, authorities said. Police were trying to find a tenant of the van who may have been involved in the violence.
Chief of Detectives James Essig said investigators are not sure whether 62-year-old Frank R. James was involved in the subway attack.
Authorities watched the man’s explicit posts on social media, some of which forced officials to tighten security measures for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Police Commissioner Kitchent Sewell called the posts “concerning”.
The attack turned the morning commute to a horror scene: a smoke-filled subway train, the onslaught of at least 33 bullets, screaming riders fleeing the station, and bloodied people lying on the platform when others were assisting.
Jordan Javier thought the first sound he heard was the fall of a textbook. Then there was another jump, people started moving to the front of the car and he realized there was smoke, he said.
When the train pulled up to the station, people ran out and directed them to another train across the platform. Passengers cried and prayed as they drove, Javier said.
“I’m just grateful to be alive,” he said.
Five victims of the shots were in critical condition, but expected to survive. At least a dozen people who escaped gunshot wounds received help from smoke inhalation and other injuries.
Sewell said the attack is not being investigated as terrorism, but she “excludes nothing.” The motive of the shooter was unknown.
Sitting in the back of the second car of the train, the gunman threw two smoke grenades on the floor, pulled out a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol and started firing, Esig said. The video of the rider shows a man raising his hand and pointing to something when five blows are heard.
Passengers of the smoky car were beating at the door of a nearby car, trying to escape, told the news site Gothamist racer Julian Fonda, who was in the next car. The Foundation is a broadcast engineer for the owner of Gothamist, the public radio station WNYC.
Investigators believe the gun jammed the arrow and prevented him from firing again, said two law enforcement officers, who are not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Esig said police found the weapon along with elongated shops, an ax, exploded and unexploded smoke grenades, a black trash can, a cart, gasoline and a U-Haul van key.
That key led investigators to James, who has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, the detective chief said. The van was later found empty near the subway station, where investigators determined that an armed man had entered the train system, Esig said.
Free, obscene-filled videos on YouTube, apparently published by James, who is black, full of black nationalist rhetoric, harsh vocabulary and fan comments, some directed against other black people. One, published on April 11, criticizes crimes against blacks and says drastic measures are needed to change the situation.
Several videos mention the New York subway, and Adams is a common theme.
A February 20 video says the mayor and governor’s plan to combat homelessness and security in the New York City subway system is “doomed to failure” and calls himself a “victim” of the mayor’s mental health program. A January 25 video criticizes Adams’ plan to end gun violence.
The attack alarmed the city, which was wary of rising crime with weapons and the constant threat of terrorism. This has caused some New Yorkers to worry about riding in the busiest subway system in the country and has prompted officials to step up police at transport hubs from Philadelphia to Connecticut.
“This man is still at large. This man is dangerous, ”Democrat Katie Hochul warned at a press conference at noon.
In Menla, Iowa, President Joe Biden praised “the first responders to arrive in action, including civilians who did not hesitate to help their accompanying passengers and tried to protect them.”
After people got off the train, fast-moving transit workers transferred passengers to another train via a safety platform, transportation officials said.
High school student John Boutikaris was riding in that other train and at first thought the problem was daily, until the next stop when he heard cries for medical help and his train was evacuated.
“I’m definitely shocked,” said the 15-year-old. “Although I didn’t see what happened, I’m still scared because what happened was a few feet away from me.”
In recent months, New York City has faced numerous shootings and high-profile bloodshed, including in the city subway. One of the most shocking was in January, when a woman was pushed to death in front of a train by a stranger.
Adams, a Democrat just over 100 days old, has cracked down on crime – especially in the subway – the first focus of his administration, promising to send more police officers to stations and platforms for regular patrols. It was not immediately clear whether there were officers at the station when the shooting took place.
The mayor, who is isolated after a positive test at COVID-19 on Sunday, said in a video statement that the city “will not allow terrorizing New Yorkers even one person.”
Balsam reported from Washington. Associated Press authors Beatrice Dupuis, Karen Matthews, Julie Walker, Dipty Hajela, Michelle Price and David Porter of New York contributed to the report, and Michael Kunzelman of College Park, Maryland.