5 unexploded projectiles found at New York train station
By JIM MUSTIAN, JENNIFER PELTZ, MICHAEL R. SISAK and MICHAEL BALSAMO
NEW YORK (AP) — A gunman wearing a gas mask set off smoke grenades and fired a barrage of bullets into a rush hour subway train in Brooklyn, injuring at least 10 people on Tuesday, reports announced the authorities. The police were trying to find the tenant of a van possibly linked to the violence.
Chief of Detectives James Essig said investigators do not know if the man, identified as 62-year-old Frank R. James, had any connection to the subway attack.
Authorities were reviewing the man’s apparent social media posts, some of which led officials to tighten security for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the messages “concerning”.
The attack turned the morning commute into a scene of horror: a smoky underground train, an onslaught of at least 33 bullets, screaming passengers running through a station and bloodied people lying on the platform while others administered help.
Jordan Javier thought the first noise he heard was that of a textbook. Then there was another pop, people started moving towards the front of the car, and he realized there was smoke, he said.
When the train entered the station, people ran out and were directed to another train on the other side of the platform. Passengers wept and prayed as they rode, Javier said.
“I’m just grateful to be alive,” he said.
Five gunshot victims were in critical condition but are expected to survive. At least a dozen people who escaped gunshot wounds were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.
Sewell said the attack was not being investigated as terrorism, but “not ruling anything out”. The shooter’s motive was unknown.
Sitting in the back of the train’s second carriage, the shooter threw two smoke grenades at the floor, pulled out a Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun and began firing, Essig said. Biker video shows a person raising an arm and pointing at something as five shots ring out.
Passengers in the smoke-filled car knocked on the door of an adjacent car, seeking to escape, rider Juliana Fonda, who was in that nearby car, told the Gothamist news site. Fonda is a broadcast engineer for the owner of Gothamist, the public radio station WNYC.
Investigators believe the shooter’s weapon jammed and prevented him from firing any further, said two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke under cover of ‘anonymity.
Essig said police found the weapon, along with extended magazines, a hatchet, detonated and undetonated smoke grenades, a black trash can, a rolling cart, gasoline and the key to a U-van. Haul.
That key led investigators to James, who has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, the detective chief said. The van was later found, unoccupied, near a subway station where investigators determined the shooter entered the rail system, Essig said.
Rambling, profanity-filled YouTube videos apparently posted by James, who is black, are replete with black nationalist rhetoric, violent language and bigoted comments, some directed at other black people. One, published April 11, criticizes crime against black people and says drastic action is needed to change things.
Several videos mention New York City subways, and Adams is a recurring theme.
Video from February 20 says mayor and governor’s plan to tackle homelessness and New York subway safety ‘is doomed’ and describes himself as a ‘victim’ of mental health agenda of the mayor. A January 25 video criticizes Adams’ plan to end gun violence.
The attack has baffled a city on guard against a rise in gun crimes and the ever-present 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 transit hubs from Philadelphia to Connecticut.
“This individual is still at large. This person is dangerous,” Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, warned at a noon press conference.
In Menlo, Iowa, President Joe Biden hailed “the first responders who responded, including civilians, civilians who did not hesitate to help fellow travelers and tried to protect them.”
After people got off the train, quick-thinking transit workers led passengers to another train on the platform for safety reasons, transit officials said.
High school student John Butsikaris was driving this other train and at first thought the problem was trivial until the next stop, when he heard screams asking for medical attention and his train was evacuated.
“I’m definitely shaken,” said the 15-year-old. “Even though I didn’t see what happened, I’m still scared, because it was a few meters from me, what happened.”
New York City has faced a series of high-profile shootings and bloodshed in recent months, including in the city’s subways. One of the most shocking took place in January, when a woman was pushed to death in front of a train by a stranger.
Adams, a Democrat just over 100 days into his term, has made cracking down on crime — especially on the subway — one of his administration’s top goals, pledging to send more police into stations and platforms for regular patrols. It was not immediately clear if any officers were in the station when the shooting happened.
The mayor, who is self-isolating on Sunday following a positive COVID-19 test, said in a video statement that the city “will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized by even one individual.”
Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Beatrice Dupuy, Karen Matthews, Julie Walker, Deepti Hajela, Michelle L. Price, and David Porter in New York contributed to this report, and Michael Kunzelman contributed from College Park, Maryland.