New York police intensified their hunt Wednesday for a fugitive gunman who shot 10 people in a subway car the day before, putting a city already rattled by rising gun violence further on edge.
Police have identified 62-year-old Frank James as a suspect in the attack, in which they say he detonated two smoke canisters on board the train as it was pulling into a station in Brooklyn, then opened fire. No one was killed in the attack, which also left 13 others injured as they scrambled to get out of the station or suffered smoke inhalation. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.
James had posted several videos on YouTube of himself delivering long, sometimes aggressive political tirades. He also criticized New York mayor Eric Adams, who called on residents to be “vigilant” Wednesday.
Adams, speaking on NBC’s Today show, said police had stepped up his security “out of an overabundance of caution” and that they were taking “the necessary steps” until the gunman was apprehended.
“You have a person that carried out a very sick action to harm innocent people in our system,” he said.
He told MSNBC that there was no sign James had had an accomplice.
Police later recovered a Glock 17 nine-millimeter handgun, three additional ammunition magazines and a hatchet from the scene. US media reported that James’ credit card and keys to a van he had rented were also found. The 36th Street station in Brooklyn, where the train arrived as the attack was being carried out, was heavily patrolled by police on Wednesday as travelers waited for their trains.
Commuter Laura Swalm said she was “more alert” after the shooting. “Definitely looking around. And making sure, you know, it feels a little safe,” the 49-year-old from New Jersey told AFP.
Others were more defiant. “No one is going to drive me away from the subway. The subway is in my DNA,” said 56-year-old Dennis Sughrue.
The gunman put on a gas mask just as the train was arriving at the station, then opened the smoke canisters and fire 33 times in total, police said.
“All you see is like a smoke, black smoke bomb going off, and then … people bum rushing to the back,” one of the gunshot victims, Hourari Benkada, told CNN, referring to a charge by passengers towards the door at the end of the car.
Benkada, speaking from his hospital bed, said he had boarded the first car at 59th Street and sat next to the gunman — but with his headphones on he did not notice anything until smoke began filling the car.
He said he did not understand that there were shots at first, and that he was trying to comfort a pregnant woman next to him. “I got pushed and that’s when I got shot in the back of my knee,” he said.
Benkada said the shooting lasted for perhaps a minute, and that he heard about 10 shots.
The bullet went through the back of his knee and out the side, leaving a hole “the size of a quarter,” he said. “I lost so much blood.”
Shootings in New York have risen this year, and the uptick in violent gun crime has been a central focus for Adams since he took office in January. Through April 3, shooting incidents rose to 296 from 260 during the same period last year, according to police statistics. Lax gun laws and a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms have repeatedly stymied attempts to clamp down on the number of weapons in circulation in the United States, despite a majority of Americans backing greater controls.