NYPD name person of interest in NY subway shooting

Attacker motive is unclear, NYPD says that it is not ruling anything out

 Law enforcement officers and firefighters work near the scene of a shooting at a subway station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US, April 12, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)
Law enforcement officers and firefighters work near the scene of a shooting at a subway station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US, April 12, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)

New York City's police commissioner said Tuesday night that authorities have a person of interest in the incident that saw at least 16 people shot and at least 29 injured from smoke inhalation and chaos in a Brooklyn subway Manhattan-bound Tuesday during morning rush-hour. The motive of the gunman, who remains at large, is still unknown and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) are offering a $50,000 reward for more information.

All of the victims are expected to survive, police said. 

The person of interest was identified as Frank R. James, who rented the U-Haul van connected with the shooting, according to US media.  

According to NYPD, James, 62, has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin. 

"Just before 8:24 Tuesday morning an approximately 5-foot-5 tall heavy build, black individual wearing a green construction type vest and a grey colored sweatshirt, donned what appeared to be a gas mask and opened a canister, and, at that time, the train began to fill with smoke," NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell told reporters in a press conference near the site of the shooting. 

"He opened fire striking several people on the subway and on the platform," Sewell added.

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 James that mentioned homelessness and the New York City mayor, Sewell said.

The shooting began in the train car as the train was pulling into the station. 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.

"We are asking help from the public, anyone with information videos or photographs is asked to call law enforcement," the commissioner said.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams assured that the NYPD would catch the suspect, he said in a video statement. The motive of the attack is unclear, but the NYPD said that it is not ruling anything out.

The Mayor said that James is no longer just a person of interest and he would be considered a suspect wanted fugitive going forward ABC Channel 7 reports.

"The shooter is still on the loose, we are in an active shooter situation right now in New York... we say no more mass shootings, no more disrupting lives," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters.

On Tuesday evening, the NYPD said they found an unoccupied U-Haul van in Brooklyn matching the description and license plate number of the vehicle being sought in connection with the attack. The van reportedly has Arizona license plates, Sebastien Reyes, U-Haul's vice president of communications, said in a statement to Fox News.

Adams said that the attacker "detonated smoke bombs to cause havoc." 

"Sixteen patients were treated as a result of the incident. Ten of the patients are suffering from gunshot wounds and five of them are in critical yet stable condition in our local hospitals. The victims suffer a variety of injuries, from smoke inhalation to shrapnel and to panic from the incident," a Fire Department official told reporters.

According to CNN, a total of 29 people who suffered various injuries in the incident turned up at area hospitals, though most of them appeared to have been emergency room walk-ins who were treated and discharged.

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There is a heavy presence of emergency vehicles and police forces in the area of the 36th Street subway station, where the attack took place, according to CBS New York.

 Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers check Manhattan subways after a shooting at a subway station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US, April 12, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON) Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers check Manhattan subways after a shooting at a subway station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US, April 12, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)

Police are urging residents to avoid the area of 36th Street and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.

"Officers are currently inspecting all stations and trains as we continue to investigate the incident at 36th St in Brooklyn," NYPD Transit Bureau updated.

"While we gather more information, we ask New Yorkers to stay away from this area for their safety and so that first responders can help those in need and investigate," said Fabien Levy, press secretary to NYC Mayor Eric Adams.

"President Joe Biden has been briefed on the latest developments regarding the Brooklyn subway shooting. White House senior staff are in touch with Mayor Adams and Police Commissioner Sewell to offer any assistance as needed," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“Gunfire, smoke, and bloodshed should never be a part of your morning commute," Brooklyn Councilwoman Inna Vernikov told The Jerusalem Post following the shooting. "Dozens of Brooklynites faced terror and violence this morning, as they headed to work and school. This was not the first act of violent crime on the subways, and it probably won’t be the last. Our city needs a comprehensive plan to make our trains safe, or we will find ourselves back in the 1980s, when only the bravest New Yorkers ventured onto the trains."

Vernikov, who represents southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, home to the largest numbers of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants, including Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach, known to many as Little Odessa continued,  "I am grateful to the policemen and firefighters who responded quickly and professionally. I am confident that they will apprehend the perpetrator and bring him to justice. My heart is with all those impacted by today’s attack, but the time for platitudes has long passed.  Thoughts and prayers are always appreciated- but what we need now, more than ever, is action."

"This morning's attack on a Brooklyn subway car was shocking and horrifying. I live 30 blocks away," Rabbi Josh Weinberg told the Post hours after the attack. Weinberg, who serves as CEO of the ARZA movement (the Zionist arm of the Reform movement) said "our kids' school was on lockdown - mostly out of an abundance of caution and standard protocol. Our daughter rides the subway to her Jewish Day school two stops away from where the shooting took place and my colleague's - a staff member of the Union for Reform Judaism - wife and son were on the 36th St subway platform minutes after the shooting took place as the station was filling with smoke."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash called the shooting "tragic and senseless" and said it hits close to home for the team, whose practice facility and office are located close by.

This is a developing story.

Zvkia Klein contributed to this report.