NEW YORK – Police have identified a person of interest in connection with the chaotic rush hour attack on a Brooklyn subway on Tuesday morning, stepping up the manhunt that has so far led to no arrest.
Frank James, 62, was named a person of interest in the attack, which left at least 29 people injured, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at an evening news conference. Police have refrained from calling him a suspect in the shooting. He has ties to Wisconsin and Philadelphia, authorities said.
The assailant, wearing a gas mask, set off two smoke bombs before firing. He fled the Brooklyn platform in a panic, leaving a subway car filled with screaming commuters and bleeding victims. At least 10 people were shot and at least 19 others were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to shrapnel.
Authorities say the shooter fired 33 times from a Glock 17 99mm handgun, which was found in the subway.
Police helicopters hovered for hours over the Manhattan-bound N train in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood as authorities investigated the scene, finding a gun, smoke bombs and other items, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.
Police have not released a suspect’s name or motive. Authorities found a U-Haul pickup truck with Arizona license plates they were looking for in connection with the attack, but the vehicle was empty, an official told the AP.
Police closed off a street about four miles from the scene of the shooting and scrambled to clear nearby businesses while they waited for a bomb squad and the highly specialized emergency services unit.
“Law enforcement has alerted us to his search for a rental van and his possible connection to a suspect in today’s incident in New York City,” the U-spokesperson said. Haul, Sebastien Reyes, in a statement to USA TODAY. “We are working closely with the authorities to ensure they have all the information available to meet their needs.”
WHAT WE KNOW:“We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced last fall that it had installed security cameras at all 472 subway stations across the city, saying they would put criminals on a “fast track to justice”. But Mayor Eric Adams told WCBS there was “some form of malfunction with the camera system” at the subway station. It’s unclear whether one camera was not working or all of them, he said.
Adams told MSNBC that authorities have recovered “strong evidence” and are “focusing” on a possible identity of the shooter. He said he couldn’t put “a timetable” on an arrest.
Authorities have obtained a photo of a potential suspect and are working to confirm his identity, two law enforcement officials told the AP.
Investigators believe the shooter’s weapon jammed, preventing him from continuing to fire, officials said. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted an urgent search to identify the manufacturer, seller and original owner of the weapon.
The attack has left a city on guard against rising gun violence and the threat of terrorism. It has left some New Yorkers nervous about taking the nation’s busiest subway and prompted authorities to beef up policing at transportation hubs from Philadelphia to San Francisco.
The shooting happened before 8:30 a.m. on a Manhattan-bound N train in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at a news conference.
The train was waiting to pull into the 36th Street station when the man put on the gas mask and opened the canister. The train filled with smoke when the man fired, Sewell said. The shooter, whom Sewell described as a burly black man, was wearing a green construction vest and gray sweatshirt, she said.
New York City Fire Department First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said 10 people were shot. Sewell said none of the injuries were life-threatening.
Firefighters responded to a call about smoke at the 36th Street and 4th Avenue subway station. Crews found the shooting victims and several “unexploded devices,” according to a statement from the New York City Fire Department.
Sewell said Tuesday afternoon that there were no known explosive devices on the train. The incident was not being investigated as an act of terrorism “at this time”, but she asked for the public’s assistance with photos, videos or information about the incident and the shooter.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said New Yorkers’ sense of tranquility and normalcy was brutally disrupted by an individual so cold and depraved at heart that he cared not for the individuals he assaulted. “.
President Joe Biden offered his prayers for the victims of the subway shooting and commended those who took quick action.
“We are grateful to all the first responders who sprung into action, including the civilians who did not hesitate to help their fellow travelers and try to protect them,” he said during a trip to a processing plant in Iowa that produces ethanol.
In addition to the gunshot victims, others suffered smoke inhalation, shrapnel wounds and panic-related injuries after the shooting, Kavanagh said.
Twenty-one people were taken to NYU Langone Hospital in Brooklyn after the attack. Ten were released on Tuesday afternoon. The remaining 11 patients were treated for injuries including gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation. They were all in stable condition, spokeswoman Lacy Scarmana said. New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital said three patients injured in the attack had been treated. One was shot, another had a fractured bone and the third was untrauma related. All three were in stable condition.
Five people were treated at Maimonides Medical Center, spokeswoman Suzanne Tammaro said. Three were treated for smoke inhalation and released. The other two had been shot, although the injuries were not life-threatening.
Avellana De La Cruz, 25, was texting her boss that she would be late for work waiting for the metro when dozens of people, some with bloodstains, started running out of the station. De La Cruz said people were crying and screaming while others called the police or recorded with their phones.
Confused, De La Cruz remained at the station until an announcement ordered passengers to evacuate. As De La Cruz exited the station, a woman covered in blood with a facial wound asked for help in finding the police. Together they exit the subway and find an ambulance.
“One minute I was on the phone, and the next everyone was running and crying,” De La Cruz said. “It was chaos in there and it was hard to concentrate on whether the attack was really over.”
Tim O’Donnell, 31, who regularly travels to Manhattan on the N train, said he had headphones on when he heard a conductor tell passengers to board an R train at the platform. Then he heard the announcement over the loudspeaker to evacuate.
On his way out, O’Donnell said, he saw a man with his trouser leg rolled up and what appeared to be a bloody gash on his leg. O’Donnell said he thought the man may have fallen on the steps in the pouring rain, but received texts about the shooting as he walked home.
Photos on social media showed several people bleeding on a smoky subway platform shortly after news broke of the shooting. the the metro station serves lines D, N and R, all of which are heading towards Manhattan. Services on lines in Brooklyn and some Manhattan stations have been suspended, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Rogelio Miranda, a cashier at a nearby supermarket, said he was working early when a woman came inside, shouted, “There’s blood all over the station” and ran into the toilet. The store remained open and people came in to wait for taxis and Ubers, Miranda said.
“Subway violence is not new to our area, but to see so many people so terrified and so many people saying they saw people covered in blood, it’s crazy,” Miranda said.
John Chiu, who works in sales around the corner from the subway station, said about 10 minutes after arriving at his office he heard police sirens sounding.
“I thought it was just another accident because…honestly, it’s a daily occurrence,” said Chiu, who normally drives to work from her Flatbush home.
Within minutes, Chiu knew it was something more. He checked to see if everyone who normally took the subway had arrived at work. They all had. “It was a relief,” he said.
Adamwho cleared her calendar of in-person public events after testing positive for the coronavirus, has been receiving continued briefings, spokesperson Fabien Levy tweeted.
“We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized by even one individual,” Adams said in a brief video.
Crime in the city’s sprawling subway system has increased. Transit crime is up 68% from 2021, according to NYPD statistics.
Adams released a safety plan this year as part of efforts to reduce crime on the subway.
The metro system has been the target of several mass attacks. In December 2017, a pipe bomb exploded in a pedestrian tunnel connecting two train lines at a bus station in midtown Manhattan. No one was killed, but three people were slightly injured. Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was convicted of terrorism for carrying out the attack on behalf of the Islamic State.
Dozens of passengers were injured in December 1994 when two homemade gasoline bombs detonated on a crowded downtown No. 4 train that was stopped at Fulton Street Station below Manhattan’s Financial District. Edward Leary, a computer analyst from New Jersey enraged by the loss of his job, was convicted in 1996.
Najibullah Zazi, a lawful permanent resident of the United States of Afghanistan, acquired bomb-making components and drove them to New York, intending a series of strikes in September 2009.
When he learned authorities were investigating the plot, he threw away the explosives and returned to Denver, where he was arrested. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder described the plot as “one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since 9/11, 2001.”
“It could have been devastating,” Holder said.
Contributor: The Associated Press