The attack left at least 29 people shot or otherwise injured, shaking a city already unnerved by a sharp rise in crime.
A “mumbling” lone gunman in a reflective vest and a gas mask threw smoke bombs into a subway car in Brooklyn and then began shooting at the height of the morning rush, with the manhunt continuing into the evening as new details emerged in the probe.
None of the injuries were considered life-threatening. Authorities said a magazine jammed in the gun, which possibly saved lives.
Tuesday evening, the authorities identified 62-year-old Frank R. James as a person of interest in the investigation and released a photo at an NYPD briefing led by Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
On Wednesday morning, Mayor Eric Adams said James was no longer just a person of interest and would be considered the suspect and a wanted fugitive going forward.
Police now have probable cause to arrest James for the attempted murder of ten people in the subway, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
That determination was made overnight after more than 18 hours of investigation that included video, cell phone data and witness interviews.
The US Marshals have joined the search along with the NYPD, FBI, ATF and other agencies.
While the cameras in the station were inoperable, law enforcement officials were able to get an image of the suspect from a bystander’s cell phone video.
The NYPD located a U-Haul van in Kings Highway in Gravesend believed to be connected to the shooting.
James rented the U-Haul in Philadelphia and the keys to that van were found in the shooter’s possessions left behind at the subway station, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said. He added, however, that investigators do not know if James has any connection to the subway shooting. The U-Haul has since been towed.
Sewell also revealed Tuesday night that additional security will be added to Mayor Adams’ detail due to social media posts from the person of interest that seem to be highly critical of the mayor for his homeless policy.
There is a $50,000 reward for the apprehension of James, who police say had addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin.
Mayor Adams appeared on Good Morning America Wednesday and was asked about the manhunt.
“It’s still active. I was briefed earlier this morning, we are still pursuing our person of interest,” Adams told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “We’re asking all New Yorkers, if they see something say something – or do something – and that’s notify local authorities or call our hotline.”
Adams also said officials are considering the use of state-of-the-art metal detectors in the city’s subway system moving forward.
“It’s not the traditional metal detectors that you see at airports,” said Adams. “Technology has advanced so much. When you think about it, we have not advanced with technology. The cities… when it comes down to protecting the citizens better, I’m open to all technology.”
Police say the shooting happened on a Manhattan-bound N train making express stops just before 8:30 a.m., and that the suspect was seen mumbling to himself before donning the gas mask and removing a canister from a bag before the car began to fill with smoke.
Essig added that between the 59th and 36th Street stations, the suspect opened up and tossed to the ground two smoke grenades and started to fire his semiautomatic weapon. The gunman then discharged the Glock 33 times.
Also recovered at the scene was a 9 mm Glock semi-automatic handgun, three extended magazines, a hatchet, gasoline, four smoke grenades (two detonated and two undetonated) and bag of consumer grade fireworks, as well as a credit card authorities say was used to rent the U-Haul. They say the gun was not stolen.
“At this time we still do not know the suspect’s motivation. Clearly this individual boarded the train and was intent on violence,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at an evening press conference.
After passengers spilled onto the platform, everyone who was not wounded was told to get back on the train, which then continued to the 25th Street station in Greenwood Heights.
“This perpetrator dropped those smoke cans, if that’s what they are, and shot around, and then exited from that point,” retired NYC Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. “He’s not going to stay on there if there’s smoke on there, even if he has the filter mask.”
Shell casings were recovered on the train and on the platform along with a handgun that had three extended round magazines. One of those magazines jammed, which is believed to have saved lives.
No arrests have been made, and schools in the area went into a shelter in place as the search continued. There were tearful reunions once schools were dismissed.
Kristin Thorne has more on that angle:
Mayor Adams attended a police briefing virtually Tuesday night and also spoke with Eyewitness News on Tuesday evening.
Adams, who remains under quarantine due to his COVID diagnosis, released a video statement on his various social media accounts.
“We’re praying for all New Yorkers who were injured or affected by today’s attack,” he said. “So far, we know that we have a multiple number of injuries, including victims of gunshot wounds…We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized even by a single individual. The NYPD is searching for the suspect at large, and we will find him.”
Officials confirmed that 10 of the victims, who range in age from 17 to 50, were shot, and five are listed in critical but stable condition. None of the injuries are considered life-threatening.
It is unclear if the gunman fled out of a station or into the subway tunnel.
Governor Kathy Hochul called the suspect “cold-hearted and depraved” and warned that he remains on the loose and dangerous.
“We say no more,” she said. “No more mass shootings. No more disrupting lives. No more creating heartbreak for people just trying to live their lives as normal New Yorkers. It has to end and it ends now…Everyone involved in this has one purpose, and it is to stop the insanity of these crimes.”
After the chaos settled, hospitals reported a total of 29 patients being treated for injuries they sustained from the shooting.
The vast majority, 21, were taken to NYU Langone-Brooklyn and none of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.
So far 16 patients have been released from NYU. The five remaining patients continue to be in stable condition.
Five other victims were taken to Maimonides, two of which are being kept overnight for gunshot wounds. The other three victims have already been released.
Governor Hochul spoke outside of Maimonides on Tuesday night, thanking law enforcement for identifying a person of interest and then talked about meeting an 18-year-old victim, a student who was on his way to school and is now awaiting surgery.
“He seems to be doing well, and is in very good spirits, as well as his mother and grandmother who are there,” Hochul said.
Anthony Johnson has more on that angle:
Police were looking at as many as four packages initially deemed suspicious, but they were later determined to be unfounded.
“This morning, Sunset Park commuters were assaulted by a senseless act of violence,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said. “As always in a time of crisis, Brooklynites experienced the swift reaction of our city’s first responders, including the MTA, NYPD, and FDNY. I am deeply heartened to see the Sunset Park community coming together during this time of tragedy – Brooklyn stands with you. I will continue to work with local authorities and elected officials as more details of the attack are confirmed and the perpetrator is found.”
There were also subway disruptions throughout the area across multiple lines.
D, N and R trains have all resumed making local stops, but continue to skip the 36th Street station. B and W service remains suspended in both directions. CLICK HERE for the latest MTA service updates.
Lucy Yang has more on transit disruptions:
An FBI official says they are assisting NYPD and that it does not appear related to terrorism at the moment, but FBI headquarters is monitoring.
This latest incident comes as New York City has faced a spate of shootings and high-profile incidents in recent months, including on the city’s subways. One of the most shocking was in January when a woman was pushed to her death in front of a train by a stranger.
Adams has made cracking down on crime, especially on the subways, a focus of his early administration, pledging to send more police officers into stations and platforms for regular patrols.
Notify NYC urges anyone unable to reach someone who may have been impacted to call 311. If outside New York City, please call 212-639-9675.
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.