Updates rolled in sporadically throughout Tuesday as authorities and city residents tried to make sense of an early morning shooting that rattled the commute for straphangers in Brooklyn. By the day’s end, authorities had numbers to quantify the injured and images of a person now considered a suspect in the shooting.
Here’s what we know so far
Frank R. James, 62, was named as a “person of interest” associated with the subway shooting in Sunset Park on Tuesday morning that left 10 people with gunshot wounds and an additional 13 injured from panic attacks or smoke inhalation during the rush to escape, the NYPD said during an evening press conference Tuesday. Mayor Eric Adams said on WNYC Wednesday that James was now considered a suspect, based on “new information [that] has become available,” but he did not give specifics.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Tuesday the city was “truly fortunate that this was not significantly worse,” as there were no deaths to report from this incident.
The shots rang out at 8:24 a.m. on a Manhattan-bound N train between the 59th street and 36th street stations, police said. Four of the victims were young people aged 12, 13, 16 and 18. The oldest victim was 46 years old.
Chief of Detectives James Essig said Tuesday night that the suspected shooter left items behind at the scene, including a weapon — a Glock nine millimeter handgun, and a set of keys, which police linked to a U-Haul van registered in James’ name. Police found that van about four miles away from the scene in Gravesend and traced it to James, saying it was registered in his name. James remained at large early Wednesday morning, however. Police said he was tied to addresses in both Wisconsin and Philadelphia.
Other items cops said they found at the scene reportedly linked to the suspect were bullet magazines, a hatchet and gasoline.
Adams praised the NYPD’s detective work Wednesday morning. “Being able to identify the van, being able to identify his social media channels using all the pieces together to this puzzle of this is actually an amazing turnaround with the lack of information that we had,” he said.
A reward of $50,000 was also offered up to anyone who helped police land an arrest in connection to the shooting.
Reports from the scene
Witnesses described a chaotic scene as violence unfolded on a Manhattan-bound N train at the 36th Street subway station .
The suspect, witnesses said, wore a gas mask before detonating a smoke device aboard the busy train and firing his weapon more than 30 times.
WNYC’s Juliana Fonda was on the N train when the shots started.
“People were pounding and looking behind them, running, trying to get on to the train,” Fonda said. “The door locked between cars and the people behind us — there were a lot of loud pops and there was smoke in the other car.”
By the evening, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had posted several cancellations and reroutes throughout the subway system as authorities worked to clean up and investigate the crime scene in Sunset Park.
The D, N, and R trains stopped running in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The D, F, M, N, Q and R trains also reported “major delays.”
The N train stopped running between Atlantic Ave./Barclays Center and 8 Ave. as well.
But by Wednesday morning, D, N and R trains were stopping at the 36th Street station in Brooklyn in both directions, though delays may be ongoing.
Riders in the pre-dawn hours started filing into the station telling Gothamist they were anxious but undeterred.
"You can’t let one person alter your life, gotta keep on, keep on going,” said Michael Torres, a FedEx worker, as he boarded an R train.
Police milled about the station's mezzanine but only one cop was on the platform as rush hour got underway Wednesday.
Nearby schools sheltered in place
Several schools near the scene of the shooting locked down for part of the day, telling administrators to lock their doors and to keep children and staff inside.
Schools Chancellor David Banks asked all students in the Sunset Park area to shelter in place and also to cancel some after-school extracurricular activities. The lockdown was lifted around the time of regular dismissal.
Sick from COVID-19, Mayor Adams faced the crisis from Gracie Mansion
Mayor Eric Adams, two days into a five-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, went on a media blitz from home in the aftermath of the shooting, suiting up for the cameras from Gracie Mansion. He decried the “senseless act of violence” and called on the federal government to step up to prevent gun tragedies like that from ever plaguing the city, or country, again.
“We cannot allow a terror to terrorize us so that we don't continue to function as a city,” he said, during an interview on CNN Tuesday. “We don't know what is the source of this incident yet. But I call on New Yorkers to continue to be as resilient as we have often been.”
What does this mean as the city tries to recover ridership to pre-pandemic levels?
Already grappling with lower ridership figures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA faced another potential setback as the city braced for fearful straphangers staying off of trains after Tuesday’s incident.
The mayor tried to assure riders to feel safe riding the subway, adding that he would be devoting more officers to the system.
“We’re telling passengers if they see something, say something, and do something by communicating with the law enforcement officers who will be in the system,” Adams said on WNYC Tuesday afternoon. “I want my officers riding the train, at the stations. We need that omnipresence.”