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New York City subway attack

Gunman shoots 10 in New York subway after setting off smoke bomb; manhunt underway

epa09885956 New York City Police and Fire Department officials on the scene of a reported multiple shooting at a New York City Subway station in the Brooklyn borough of New York, New York, USA, 12 April 2022. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

NEW YORK, April 12 (Reuters) - A gunman wearing a gas mask set off a smoke bomb and opened fire in a New York subway car during Tuesday's morning commute, injuring 16 people, authorities said, prompting officials to renew calls for steps to combat a surge of violence in the city's transit system.

By Maria Caspani, Jonathan Allen and Rami Ayyub

Police said the perpetrator, believed to have been acting alone, fled the scene. The attack unfolded as the subway was pulling into a station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, setting off an intense manhunt by local and federal law enforcement.

Ten people were hit directly by gunfire, including five who were listed in critical but stable condition. Six others were injured by shrapnel or otherwise hurt in the chaos as panicked riders fled the smoke-filled subway car, some collapsing to the pavement as they poured onto the platform of the 36th Street station.

The suspect was described by police as a man of heavy build, wearing a green construction-type vest and a hooded sweatshirt. Fox News, citing unnamed sources, said the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was searching for a U-Haul van with Arizona license plates in connection with the shooting.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the shooting was not currently being investigated as an act of terrorism, although authorities would not rule anything out as a motive.

“This morning, as a Manhattan-bound N train waited to enter the 36th (Street) station, an individual on that train donned what appeared to be a gas mask, he then took a canister out of his bag and opened it,” Sewell told a news conference.

“The train at that time began to fill with smoke. He then opened fire, striking multiple people on the subway and in the platform,” she added.

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 closed off the immediate area with yellow crime-scene tape.

Students and staff at schools in the neighborhood were directed to shelter in place.

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.

“It was just a scary moment. It was, everyone was packed together, and I didn’t know what happened until after.”

 

‘SURGE OF CRIME’

New York, the United States’ most populous city, has seen a sharp rise in violent crime during the pandemic, including a string of seemingly random attacks on New York City’s subway. 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 make New York City’s subway safer 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 patrol in the subway.

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 about the incident, and that assistance had been offered to Adams and Police Commissioner Sewell.

Transit investigators found containers with gasoline and additional, unused smoke canisters on the train carriage, television station WNBC reported, citing city transit sources.

CNN, citing law enforcement sources, said multiple high-capacity ammunition magazines were found in the subway station with the gun, which apparently jammed.

But officials told WABC-TV there were no working cameras inside the station, likely complicating any investigation. The NYPD and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said they had no information about faulty cameras.

After the shooting, some of the law enforcement officers rushed to the scene were seen donning body armor and helmets, watched by clusters of onlookers huddled on sidewalks against buildings in a drizzle.

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.”

 

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen; additional reporting by Aleks Michalska, Brendan McDermid, Andrew Kelly and Tyler Clifford in New York; Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; David Shepardson, Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; writing by Rami Ayyub; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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