New York City police said Tuesday night they had identified a “person of interest” in the mass shooting which occurred during the morning rush hour in a crowded subway.
At a news conference at police headquarters, NYPD officials said they are looking for Frank James, a 62-year-old black man with known addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin.
Police said keys to a U-Haul van James rented in Philadelphia were found in the subway and authorities were working to determine if he was the suspect in the shooting. The unoccupied van was later located in Brooklyn and a bomb squad was dispatched to inspect the vehicle.
“We don’t have anyone in custody,” NYPD Detective Chief James Essig told reporters. “We are looking for Frank James. We know that Mr. James rented that van in Philadelphia.
New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said 10 people were shot on a Manhattan-bound N train around 8:24 a.m. local time and 13 others were wounded in the shooting.
Five of the victims are in serious condition, he said, but none have life-threatening injuries.
Witnesses told police that as the train pulled into the 36th Street station, the suspect put on what appeared to be a gas mask, took two canisters from his bag and opened them, filling the car with smoke. The suspect then brandished a 9mm handgun and fired at least 33 times, police said, before fleeing the station.
The suspect was described as a black male, approximately 5-foot-5 with a strong build, wearing a green “construction-type” hat, an orange vest and a gray sweatshirt, but Essig cautioned that they had received conflicting information about his height.
Police recovered a pistol, three magazines, two detonated smoke grenades, two undetonated smoke grenades, an axe, a rolling cart, gasoline and U-Haul keys at the scene.
While there is no known motive, Sewell said James had made social media posts referencing New York City Mayor Eric Adams and that the mayor’s security detail was being beefed up as a result.
Adams, who is currently in self-quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, addressed the news conference via Zoom, vowing the city “will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized, even by a single individual.”
Sewell reiterated that the incident “is not being investigated as terrorism” at this time.
Graphic photos and videos of the scene posted on social media show a bloodied man being treated on the platform and what appears to be smoke filling the station.
A video shows passengers fleeing a smoke-filled subway car, screaming as they spill onto the platform.
The 36th Street Subway Station is located in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, a large working-class neighborhood with significant Chinese-American and Mexican-American communities.
The shooting triggered a massive police response, with officers from the FBI’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Joint Terrorism Task Force assisting the NYPD in their investigation.
Speaking in Iowa on Tuesday afternoon, President Biden thanked first responders and civilians who “didn’t hesitate to help their fellow travelers and tried to protect them.”
Biden said the Justice Department and the FBI are working closely with the NYPD to find the suspect. “We’re not going to give in,” he said.
The shooting comes amid a surge in violent crime in New York, particularly on its transit system. Since the beginning of 2022, there have been 375 traffic offenses, an increase of almost 73% compared to the same period in 2021, according to the NYPD.
Jana Winter contributed reporting to this story.