Brooklyn subway shooting: Gunman fired at least 33 times, police say

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Nearly two dozen people were injured, including five critically, after a gunman wearing a gas mask and a construction vest set off a smoke canister on a rush-hour subway train in Brooklyn before shooting at least 10 people Tuesday, authorities said.

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Police responded to the 36th Street station where the D, N and R lines pass through, The New York Times reported.

Update 7:20 p.m. EDT April 12: James Essig, NYPD chief of detectives, confirmed during a Tuesday evening news conference that the gunman, who remains at large, fired a 9mm handgun at least 33 times, striking at least 10 people.

Essig also identified the person who rented the U-Haul van linked with the shooting as Frank R. James, 62. He said James maintains addresses in both Philadelphia, where the U-Haul was rented, and Wisconsin. He referred to James as a person of interest and confirmed police do not have a suspect in custody.

New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell confirmed that 10 people suffered gunshot wounds, and 13 other people were injured during the chaos. None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening, she said.

“We are truly fortunate that this was not significantly worse than it is,” Sewell said.

Meanwhile, Essig confirmed that the shooting victims included seven men and three women. He also confirmed that the wounded “suffered injuries related to smoke inhalation, falling down or a panic attack.”

Update 5:21 p.m. EDT April 12: According to WABC and The Associated Press, the NYPD has located an unoccupied U-Haul van believed to be connected to the shooting. The van was found in Brooklyn, and it matches the description and license plate number of the vehicle being sought in connection with the rush-hour subway attack in which at least 10 people were shot, a law enforcement official confirmed to the AP.

Update 4:37 p.m. EDT April 12: President Joe Biden addressed the subway shooting Tuesday afternoon while in Menlo, Iowa, noting that his team has been in contact with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, as well as the police commissioner, according to CNN.

“We’re not letting up on it until we find out, and we find that the perpetrator,” he said.

Update 4:20 p.m. EDT April 12: According to WABC, detectives have made significant progress and “believe they have a good idea for whom they are searching,” but New York City Mayor Eric Adams declined to elaborate further.

The TV station also noted that all U-Haul vehicles bear Arizona plates, making that detail less pertinent to the investigation.

Update 3:06 p.m. EDT April 12: Police are looking for a U-Haul van with Arizona plates that could be connected to the suspect, WNBC and the AP reported.

CNN reported that police have not said it was connected but that if it is occupied, police should take “extreme precautions” when trying to stop the vehicle. If it is unoccupied, then officers should notify commanders.

The van has license plate number AL31408.

Update 2:11 p.m. EDT April 12: A source close to the investigation has told WNBC that the gunman’s weapon may have jammed, preventing him from continuing shooting. Not only was a gun recovered from the scene, the source told the news station that a bag with smoke canisters and fireworks was also found.

Police said they also found three extended round magazines, one still in the gun that was jammed, a second which was empty on the floor and a third in the backpack, ABC News reported.

ABC News reported that the alleged gunman was seen mumbling to himself before donning the gas mask, releasing a smoke canister and opening fire with a .380 handgun and while cameras in the subway station were not working at the time of the incident, a bystander’s camera did capture an image of a suspect.

Update 1:32 p.m. EDT April 12: Law enforcement sources have told CNN that a gun has been recovered from the subway station.

Meanwhile, the FBI has confirmed that they are working with the NYPD on the investigation.

“The FBI’s and NYPD’s joint-terrorism task force is made up of over 50 agencies and we are fully-engaged on this investigation. It’s still very much in its early stages. Our focus right now – our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. We’re following every viable lead and will continue to do so with the NYPD and our other city partners,” Michael Driscoll, the assistant director in charge of the FBI New York field office said in a news conference on an unrelated matter, CNN reported.

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT April 12: Mayor Eric Adams said he is in “constant communication” with the NYPD and other city and state agencies during the ongoing investigation into Tuesday’s shooting, CNN reported.

He said that the gunman set off a smoke canister to “cause havoc” and that despite not being investigated as an act of terrorism right now by the NYPD, Adams said “We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized even by a single individual.”

The mayor said the man who opened fire is still on the run and pledged that he will be found.

Update 12:11 p.m. EDT April 12: Police commissioner Keechant Sewell during a news conference said there are no known explosive devices and the incident is not being investigated as an act of terrorism. The gunman is still at large.

Sewell said that none of the injuries are life-threatening at this time.

The FDNY said 10 people were shot and five are in stable but critical condition.

Sewell said the shooting began in the train car, not on the platform. As the train pulled into the station, the gunman put on a gas mask, opened a canister and threw that into the train, she said. She said that nothing is being ruled out for the motive behind the shooting.

Shrapnel, smoke inhalation and panic account for the other injuries, the FDNY said.

Updated 11:48 a.m. EDT April 12: The FDNY said eight people were shot and a total of 16 were injured in a train car, CNN reported. The train was making express stops at the 59th Street stop before the 36th Street stop as it was en route to Manhattan.

Updated 11:38 a.m. EDT April 12: A passenger on one of the train cars captured the aftermath of the shooting.

Graphic warning: The following content may be disturbing to some.

A witness told CNN that it was chaos at the scene and that the gunshots sounded like fireworks.

“What I thought was fireworks but now hearing that it was gunshots and I’m thankful I hid behind one of the chairs. ... I honestly have no words for what I’ve experienced,” Yav Montano told CNN. “I was in the front end of the third car and everything happened at the back end of the same car. ... As soon as the smoke, like, flared up, it started to engulf everything. People started migrating to the front of the car.”

Updated 11:05 a.m. EDT April 12: Officials said at least 16 people were hurt, WABC reported. CBS2 reported that 10 people were shot and that there were more than one smoke bomb set off. The motive for the attack is still not clear.

Updated 10:46 a.m. EDT April 12: Police believe the gunman acted alone but appears to be an orchestrated attack, WNBC reported.

Updated 10:40 a.m. EDT April 12: WABC reported that the incident may have happened on the N train starting at the 25th Street station. The news station said that as the subway doors closed, the person threw smoke bombs and started shooting. The victims got off the train at the 36th Street station.

Updated 10:36 a.m. EDT April 12: Press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation and senior staffers have been in touch with the city’s mayor and police commissioner to offer any assistance needed.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has also had a preliminary briefing, WABC reported.

Original report: The New York Times reported that at least five people were injured. CNN and local news agencies reported at least 13 were hurt. The Fire Department, which released the higher count, did not give details on the victims’ injuries or conditions, the Times reported.

Sources told WNBC that some of the wounded jumped on a train to escape the station.

At least four people were found inside the 36th Street station in Sunset Park, a fifth was found at the 25th Street station in Greenwood Heights, WABC reported.

Police also said that there were multiple undetonated devices found in the same station, CNN reported. But they stressed on Twitter that there were no active explosive devices in the station at this time.

WABC reported that there were four packages that were considered suspicious but they were later found not to pose a danger.

Police said a person, possibly wearing a gas mask and dressed as a construction worker fled from the scene, the Times reported. A manhunt is underway, WABC reported.

Sources said the man, who was described as about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 180 pounds, may have thrown a device before he began shooting, WNBC reported.

There were also reports of smoke in the station.

The New York Fire Department is advising people to stay away from the area.

Schools in the area were placed in lockdown due to the incident, WNBC reported.

Both New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul have been briefed on the incident. Adams cannot respond to the scene since he has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Adams has been focusing on the increase in gun violence in the city since he took office in January.

As of April 3, 2022, there have been 296 shootings, up from 260 as of April 3, 2021, the Times reported.

But the Times pointed out that gun violence hit historic lows in 2018 and 2019 and it is still safer than in other years.

The NYPD is in charge of the investigation but federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as, Homeland Security are also on the scene, WNBC reported.

The FBI also is assisting and said that it is unclear if the shooting was connected to terrorism, but headquarters is monitoring, WABC reported.

Check back for more on this developing story.