Multiple People Shot at New York City Subway Station - Rolling Stone
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A Person of Interest Has Been Identified in Brooklyn Subway Shooting

NYPD commissioner says attack is not currently being investigated as an act of terrorism

Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. A gunman filled a rush-hour subway train with smoke and shot multiple people Tuesday, leaving wounded commuters bleeding on a platform as others ran screaming, authorities said.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. A gunman filled a rush-hour subway train with smoke and shot multiple people Tuesday, leaving wounded commuters bleeding on a platform as others ran screaming, authorities said.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in Brooklyn on Tuesday, April 12. A gunman filled a rush-hour subway train with smoke and shot multiple people, leaving wounded commuters bleeding on a platform as others ran screaming, authorities said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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UPDATE (4/12): A person of interest in the Brooklyn subway shooting on Tuesday morning has been identified, according to the New York City Police Department. NYPD shared photos of a person identified as Frank James, along with a tip line via an online statement early Tuesday evening. “This is Frank James who is a person of interest in this investigation. Any information can be directed to @NYPDTips at 1-800-577-TIPS,” the tweet states.

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Police error may have allowed the suspect in Tuesday morning’s Brooklyn subway shooting to escape, according to an NYPD source.

The shooting happened while the Manhattan-bound N train was between 59th and 36th streets. When the train pulled up at 36th Street, victims poured out onto the platform as smoke from munitions let off by the gas-mask-wearing shooter billowed from the train car. However, the local duty captain of a Brooklyn South patrol reportedly did not freeze all trains in and out of the 36th Street station, which is a transfer point for the N, R, and D lines.

The NYPD rebuffed this claim on Twitter, stating, “This statement is factually inaccurate. Speculation, especially in the middle of a crisis, is not helpful to our investigation, the victims, or the people of NYC. The victims on the train relied on the subway moving to the next stop to get to safety, and seek help.”

Some victims were contacted by police at the 25th Street station, indicating they got on a northbound local train after fleeing the N train where shots were initially fired. Similarly, the D line was not frozen in either direction in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

The first indication that service had been suspended came via the subway’s Twitter account nearly an hour after the incident occurred. When asked for comment on when the suspension started, NYC Transit told Rolling Stone they had no information on the matter.

The deputy commissioner of public information did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

New York City Police Department Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said at a press conference that the incident is not currently being investigated as an act of terrorism, although a source with knowledge of the matter told Rolling Stone that the NYPD was investigating the attack as potentially just that. The situation, however, remains fluid, with Sewell herself adding, “This investigation is only hours old, so please note this information is subject to change.”

When asked why law enforcement would rule out terrorism, Sewell replied, “I’m not ruling out anything. We’re determining what that motive is, and we’ll find that out as the investigation continues.”

Rolling Stone has reached out to the FBI’s New York City field office to see if they are asserting jurisdiction, which would likely happen if there is a suspected nexus to terror. As of this writing, the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mike Regan, FBI assistant special agent from an FBI-NYPD joint terrorism task force, was on the scene for the presser, though, and a rep for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was also in attendance.

According to preliminary reports, at least five people were shot on the N train April 12. A New York City Fire Department representative told NBC News that 13 people were injured in the mayhem, although it was unclear how many of them were shot. Police also said they were seeking a suspect identified only as a man wearing a gas mask and a construction vest. An NYPD representative tells Rolling Stone there are “multiple people injured,” but that number “keeps changing.” So far, however, all the victims are stable. The NYPD representative added that this is “still an active investigation.”

At the press conference, Sewell said, “I want to begin by assuring the public that there are currently no known explosive devices on our subway trains. … We can also report that although this was a violent incident, reportedly we have no one with life-threatening injuries as a result of this case.”

She also offered a detailed account of the incident, saying, “Just before 8:24 this morning, as a Manhattan-bound N train waited to enter the 36th Street station, an individual on that train donned what appeared to be a gas mask. He then took a canister out of his bag and opened it. The train at that time began to fill with smoke. He then opened fire, striking multiple people on the subway and on the platform. … We would describe him as … a Black male, approximately five feet five inches tall with a heavy build. He was wearing a green construction-type vest and a hooded sweatshirt. The color is grey.”

It’s unclear at the moment whether the subway station had working security cameras during the attack. “That’s under investigation as we speak,” Sewell said during her press conference. Per ABC News, a police official said there were no working cameras at the station.

On top of the possible police error that may have allowed the suspect to escape, and the questions over the functioning security cameras, it appears a uniformed police officer at the station was unable to personally call for help. Andrew Hinderaker, a photo editor at The New York Times, said amid the panic around the attack, an officer asked subway passengers to call 911 because his radio wasn’t working.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul also issued a statement: “This morning ordinary New Yorkers woke up in anticipation of a relatively normal day. They left their homes en route to school, en route to their jobs, and to a normal day, as I mentioned. That sense of tranquility and normalness was disrupted — brutally disrupted — by an individual so cold-hearted and depraved of heart that they had no caring about the individuals that they assaulted as they simply went about their daily lives. This individual is still on the loose. This person is dangerous.”

Derek French, a photographer who happened to be on a train passing through the station, told Rolling Stone in an email: “I had just arrived on the Manhattan-bound R train arriving at the station and saw an N express train. Tried hopping on it but MTA conductor told us to get off. Trying to find a semi-empty car, I saw the victims lying on the floor. Myself and a few other citizens just wanted to help out as best we could for those affected by rendering medical aid until paramedics arrived. I hope they’re OK, as that’s what one emergency response person told us.”

One witness told the New York Post that she “lost count” of the number of rounds the shooter fired off, and saw the man drop “some kind of cylinder that sparked at the top. … I thought he was an MTA worker at first because I was like, I didn’t, like, pay too much attention, you know? You’ve got the orange on.”

It is unclear what the cylinders were, but New York — and Brooklyn, specifically — has weathered subway bombings and bomb plots in the past. In 1997, police foiled a plot by two men to detonate pipe bombs in the busy Atlantic Avenue station in downtown Brooklyn.

In April 2021, a Brooklyn man was sentenced to life in prison for detonating a pipe bomb strapped to his chest in the subway station near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. He claimed to be inspired by ISIS. Multiple people were convicted in a 2009 plot by Al Qaeda-trained men to bomb the subway systems in New York and London. 

Tuesday’s attack came amid a spate of violent crimes on the subway, which have hampered New Yorkers’ abilities to readjust to daily life following the lifting of pandemic lockdown restrictions. But these incidents have also coincided with a huge surge in NYPD officers patrolling subway stations at the direction of New York Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Hochul. Despite deploying more than 1,000 additional cops to patrol the subways, eight people were attacked over one weekend in February, with victims being stabbed, punched, robbed, or hit. On a Saturday morning in January, 40-year-old Michelle Go was fatally shoved in front of a train at the Times Square station. Go was of Asian descent, and although there was no indication she was targeted because of her race, her death further punctuated fears surrounding rising violence against Asian people during the pandemic.

The decision by Adams and Hochul to increase the number of cops in NYC subway stations was largely part of a plan to stop unhoused people from sleeping in stations and on trains. Houseless people, however, have been responsible for very few of the recent violent crimes. 

This story is developing.

Additional reporting by Brenna Ehrlich.

In This Article: New York City

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