NEW YORK – A gunman carrying a gas mask fired smoke grenades and fired a volley of bullets at a subway train at rush hour in Brooklyn, injuring at least 10 people on Tuesday, authorities said. Police were trying to track down the tenant of the van, which may be linked to the violence.
Detective Chief James Esig said investigators were unsure whether the 62-year-old man, identified as Frank R. James, had anything to do with the subway attack.
Authorities reviewed the man’s apparent social media posts, some of which prompted officials to increase the security of New York Mayor Eric Adams. Police Commissioner Kitchent Sewell called the publications “relevant”.
The attack turned a morning commute to a scene of horror: a smoke-filled subway train, an attack of at least 33 bullets, screaming riders running through a train station and bloodied people lying on a platform while others helped.
Jordan Javier thought the first popping sound he heard was the fall of a textbook. Then another bang was heard, people started moving towards the front of the car and he realized there was smoke, he said.
When the train stopped at the station, people ran out and headed for 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 are in critical condition but are expected to survive. At least a dozen people who escaped gunshot wounds have been treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.
Sewell said the attack was not being investigated as terrorism, but that it “excludes nothing.” The shooter’s motive is unknown.
Sitting in the back of the second car of the train, the assailant threw two smoke grenades on the floor, pulled out a 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol and started firing, Esig said. The video of a rider shows a man raising his hand and pointing at something while five blows are heard.
The passengers in the smoky car slammed the door of a neighboring car, looking to escape, the driver Juliana Fonda, who was in the neighboring car, told the Gothamist news site. The fund is a television engineer for the owner of Gothamist, the public radio station WNYC.
Investigators believe the shooter’s gun got stuck and prevented him from firing more, said two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and said on condition of anonymity.
Esig said police found the weapon, along with extended cartridges, an ax, an explosive and unexploded smoke grenade, a black trash can, a mobile cart, petrol and a U-Haul van key.
That clue led investigators to James, who has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, the chief of detectives said. The van was later found uninhabited near a subway station, where investigators found the armed man had entered the train system, Esig said.
The fast-paced, swearing YouTube videos, apparently posted by James, who is black, are full of black nationalist rhetoric, violent language, and fan comments, some of which are aimed at other blacks. One, published on April 11, criticized crime against blacks and said drastic action was needed to change things.
Several videos mention the New York subway, and Adams is a recurring theme.
A February 20 video said the mayor and governor’s plan to tackle homelessness and safety on the New York subway was “doomed to failure” and was mentioned as a “victim” of the mayor’s mental health program. A January 25 video criticizes Adams’ plan to end gun violence.
The attack has upset a city that is guarded by an increase in gun crimes and the ever-present threat of terrorism. This has caused some New Yorkers to worry about traveling on the nation’s busiest subway system, and has prompted police to step up police at transport hubs from Philadelphia to Connecticut.
“This man is still at large. This man is dangerous, “Governor Katie Hochul, a Democrat, warned at a luncheon press conference.
In Menlo, Iowa, President Joe Biden praised “the first responders to take action, including civilians, civilians who did not hesitate to help their companions and tried to protect them.”
After people got off the train, fast-moving transit workers led passengers to another train through the safety platform, transit officials said.
High school student John Bucikaris was riding the other train and initially thought the problem was daily until the next stop when he heard medical screams and his train was evacuated.
“I’m definitely shocked,” said the 15-year-old. “Even though I didn’t see what happened, I’m still scared because what happened was a few meters away from me.”
In recent months, New York has faced a series of shootings and bloodshed, including on the city’s 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 after his term, put the fight against crime – especially on the subway – an early focus of his administration, promising to send more police officers to stations and platforms for regular patrols. It was not immediately clear if there were any officers at the station when the shooting occurred.
The mayor, who was isolated after a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday, said in a video statement that the city “will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized, even by one person.”
Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Beatrice Dupuis, Karen Matthews, Julie Walker, Deepti Hajala, Michelle L. Price and David Porter of New York contributed to this report, and Michael Kunzelman of College Park, Maryland.