A stranded NJ Transit train in the tunnel to Penn Station caused massive delays on Friday afternoon and evening—and then a stampede occurred when people thought they heard gunfire. The noise was actually the Amtrak police using a Taser on a "belligerent" man, but dozens of people called 911 to report gunshots.
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) April 14, 2017
The reports of the noise came in at 6:30 p.m. on April 14th; by 7:10 p.m., the NYPD determined that no shots had been fired. The FDNY, which was on the scene to handle the disabled train's passengers, ended up treating 16 people for non-life-threatening injuries related to the stampede.
On Saturday, Governor Cuomo commented about the frenzy. "People are so on edge, they're so nervous, they're so now attuned to terrorist attack, etc. They're very quick to panic. When you have hundreds of people panicking, that in itself causes chaos," Cuomo said during the Easter Egg Roll at the Governor's Mansion in Albany.
Bystander Anna Renzi told the Daily News she was at the Haagen Dazs in the station when the panic spread: "I thought I heard someone yell ‘shooter,’ that’s why I threw my nephew behind a counter and jumped over and they just had us hide in the storage closet because I had the kids. The employees were so awesome they just had us hid there until it was safe to come out."
Jitters are so high that apparently there was spontaneous stampede in Penn Station NYC for no apparent cause. pic.twitter.com/uVG70o4JlX
— #CalExit NaphiSoc (@NaphiSoc) April 14, 2017
"It's a totally new world we live in," Cuomo conceded. "It's a world where terrorism is a real possibility. We all know that. But at the same time we now have to correct for the anxiety and the apprehension because people can get hurt by just the panic and the overreaction."
He added, "The first responders have to be trained not to panic and they have to be trained how to now handle a public that is very antsy. Just having people running to an exit … can cause a problem."
Amtrak police confirmed that they took an unnamed man into custody, but Amtrak has not yet responded for requests for further information about the incident.
Update, 5:17 p.m.: Amtrak spokesperson Mike Tolbert said, "While Friday night’s incident remains under departmental review consistent with standard procedures, preliminarily indications suggest the deployment was consistent with policy allowing authorized officers to subdue a potentially violent or actively resisting subject. The suspect has been hospitalized for psychological evaluation. The APD will be seeking to arrest the suspect upon his discharge from the hospital."