Five miles from where a man opened fire on a subway train in Brooklyn and shot dead 10 people during the morning rush, police recovered a rented U-Haul van late Tuesday afternoon that they believe had been conducted by the shooter, a senior law enforcement official. the official said.
But the van was empty, the official said, and the shooter remained at large, as officers from dozens of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies searched for him, more than eight hours after he donned a gas mask in a crowded N train, released a smoke canister and began firing.
At least 16 people were injured, 10 of them by gunfire, on the train and on the platform of the busy 36th Street station in the Sunset Park neighborhood, where three subway lines meet. The fire department said five victims were in critical condition, but none suffered life-threatening injuries.
The shooting, shortly before 8.30am, sparked panic and chaos on the train, in the station and surrounding streets and sent nearby schools into closures that lasted much of the day. It came as the city was already struggling to deal with both a rise in citywide shootings and an increase in crime and unrest on the subway that scared commuters back into a transit system that has seen ridership plummet during the pandemic.
Mayor Eric Adams said the search for the shooter was hampered by the fact that at least one 36th Street subway station security camera that could have captured the scene was not working. There was a “camera system malfunction at this particular station”, Mr Adams told WCBS 880 radio.
Witnesses to the shooting described the shooter as a short, dark-skinned, heavy-built man wearing a green construction vest and gray sweatshirt.
The van was spotted outside an apartment building on West 3rd Street, just off the Kings Highway shopping street in the Gravesend area, the senior law enforcement official said.
The official also said a gun was found inside the subway station. Authorities have not released the name of a suspect or the motive for the attack. But another senior police official said the attack appeared to have been planned and showed no signs of stemming from anything spontaneous like an argument on the train.
As the shootout unfolded and the doors of the N train opened, sending smoke into the station, frightened passengers fled, many of them rushing into an R train sitting opposite the platform. Tube seats and cars were streaked with blood as people called for help.
John Butsikares, 15, a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School, said his ride on a northbound R train from Bay Ridge had been quiet — until the train approached 36th Street. When the doors opened, the driver ordered the passengers on the platform to rush inside the R.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “There was just panic.”
Jose Echevarria, 50, an electrician on his way to work in Manhattan, said he was about to switch from R to N when he saw smoke and gunfire on N and people were running away.
He said he grabbed a young man who had been shot in the leg and was bleeding profusely and helped him onto the R train. “He was so scared,” Mr Echevarria said. The young man told Mr Echevarria he first saw the shooter at New Utrecht Avenue station, four stops short of 36th Street.
At a press conference, Commissioner Sewell said police were looking for a large man who was wearing a green construction vest and gray sweatshirt. She said no active explosive devices were found at the scene or on the trains.
Patrick Berry, 41, said he was waiting at the 25th Street station, one stop north, when an R train arrived around 8:30 a.m. He and his 3-year-old daughter boarded, but the train did not move.
“Then suddenly, from the front of the train, I heard people shouting, ‘Run, run, run! Go! Go! Go!’ And then all these people ran past our car, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a rush,’ Mr Berry said. ‘People started pushing from behind. So I grabbed my daughter and we ran too.
Towards the front of the train, three victims were taken care of by passers-by. A uniformed police officer approached, asking passengers to call 911 because his radio was not working. A teenager, who identified himself as Fitim, had a hole in his sweatpants which he said was from a bullet.
Around the 36th Street station, dozens of police vehicles with flashing lights cluttered the streets and helicopters flew overhead.
“We saw an ambulance come out with a stretcher with a person on it,” said Silvana Guerrero, 20, who works at the nearby Sunset Bagels Cafe & Grill. “Their leg was injured – I don’t know exactly what happened or what was going on. And then, we saw after that, two ambulances come out, with two people, like, jumping on one leg.
Fifteen people were treated at hospitals for injuries including gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation: eight at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, five at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and three at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, have indicated the hospitals.
The report was provided by Jonah E. Bromwich, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Joseph Goldstein, Andrew Hinderaker, Sadef Ali Kully, Ana Ley, Chelsia Rose Marcius and William K. Rashbaum.