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Manhunt under way for gunman in NYC subway shooting that injured at least 20

Manhunt under way for gunman in NYC subway shooting that injured at least 20

Members of the New York Police Department and emergency personnel crowd the streets near a subway station in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on Apr 12, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Angela Weiss)

NEW YORK: Police mounted an intense manhunt on Tuesday (Apr 12) for a gunman who set off two smoke bombs and opened fire in a New York subway car, injuring at least 20 people in a morning rush-hour attack that prompted new calls to fight a surge of violence in the city's transit system.

Police said the gunman, who was seen wearing a gas mask was believed to have acted alone and immediately fled the crime scene. The attack unfolded as a Manhattan-bound subway train on the N line was pulling into an underground station in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighbourhood.

Ten people were hit directly by gunfire, including five hospitalised in critical but stable condition, authorities said. 

Police said 13 more people suffered from smoke inhalation or were otherwise injured in the chaos as panicked riders fled the smoke-filled subway car. Some collapsed to the pavement as they poured onto the platform of the 36th Street station. The fire department said two of those hurt were treated at the scene.

All of the victims were expected to survive their injuries, police said.

New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant Sewell said a U-Haul van believed to be connected to the shooting was later located in Brooklyn, but the perpetrator remained at large several hours after the shooting.

At an early evening news briefing, police named a "person of interest" in the investigation as Frank James, who investigators believed had rented the U-Haul vehicle.

Police said they recovered the key to the van at the crime scene and it had been rented in Philadelphia. James had addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, officials said. Attempts by Reuters to reach any of the phone numbers associated with James were unsuccessful.

The subway assailant was described by police from eyewitness accounts as a man of heavy build, wearing an orange vest, a grey sweatshirt, a green helmet and a surgical mask.

The commissioner said the attack began in the train car as it was about to enter the station. The gunman removed two canisters from his bag and opened them, sending smoke throughout the train car.

Police said the man then fired 33 rounds from a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, which was later recovered along with three extended ammunition magazines, a hatchet, some consumer-grade fireworks and a container of gasoline.

Sewell said earlier that the shooting was not being immediately treated as an act of terrorism.

There was no known motive for the attack, but investigators found a number of social media posts linked to an individual named Frank James that mentioned homelessness and the New York City mayor, Sewell said.

Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on Apr 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Spencer Platt)
Onlookers watch as police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on Apr 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

Outside the station, in an area known for its thriving Chinatown and views of the Statue of Liberty, authorities shut down a dozen or so blocks and cordoned off the immediate vicinity with crime-scene tape. Schools in the neighbourhood were placed under security lockdowns.

John Butsikares, a 15-year-old who passed through the 36th Street station soon after the incident, said the train's conductor ordered everyone on the station platform to get on board.

"I didn't know what happened. It was a scary moment. And then at 25th Street (the next station) we were all told to get off. There was people screaming for medical assistance," said Butsikares, who was going to school.

Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on Apr 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Spencer Platt)
Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on Apr 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

'SURGE OF CRIME'

New York, the nation's most populous city, has seen a sharp rise in violent crime during the pandemic, including a string of seemingly random attacks on its subways. The system is one of the world's oldest and most extensive.

The subway violence has included a number of attacks in which passengers have been pushed onto the tracks from platforms, including a Manhattan woman whose murder was seen as part of a surge in hate-driven attacks against Asian Americans.

Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain and Brooklyn borough president who took office in January, has vowed to improve subway safety by increasing police patrols and expanding outreach to the mentally ill.

Speaking to CNN, Adams said Tuesday's incident "was a senseless act of violence" and pledged to double the number of officers on subway patrol.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul pledged "the full resources of our state to fight this surge of crime, this insanity that is feeding our city." The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident.

CNN and local media, citing law enforcement sources, said multiple high-capacity ammunition magazines, additional unused smoke canisters, gasoline containers and fireworks were found in the subway station with the gun, which apparently had jammed.

Members of the New York Police Department patrol the streets after at least 13 people were injured during a rush-hour shooting at a subway station in the New York borough of Brooklyn on Apr 12, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Timothy A Clary)
Emergency vehicles and the New York Police Department crowd the streets after at least 13 people were injured during a rush-hour shooting at a subway station in the New York borough of Brooklyn on Apr 12, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Angela Weiss)

Speaking on a radio interview, Adams confirmed media reports of "some form of malfunction" in the station's security camera system, which could hamper the investigation. But how many cameras were affected was not immediately clear, he said.

However, investigators obtained cell phone video from an eyewitness that shows the suspect, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Brooklyn resident Yayha Ibrahim said he saw people running from the station, and decided to walk down into it to see what was happening.

"I saw a lady, she was shot right in her leg and she was screaming for help," he said. Rescue workers "did a good job of coming quick and fast, and the ambulance came in and they took her."

Source: Reuters/zl/ec

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