New York subway riders faced their worst fear with an active shooter with a smoke bomb on a packed Manhattan-bound Brooklyn train.

This was not a drill.

At the height of the morning rush hour, terrified commuters with bullet holes stumbled off the Manhattan-bound N train at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Twenty nine people were injured. Ten were shot. Several were hospitalized overnight.

These were people going to work, school, everyday activities when they were confronted by a man who had been “mumbling” in a corner, wearing a grey hoodie and a reflective worker’s jacket, who pulled on a gas mask and tossed a smoke bomb into the crammed subway car at 25th Street. Fighting for their lives, screaming and choking passengers banged on connecting doors, and tried to get out of the smoke-filled car. Then the shooter pulled out a nine millimeter Glock, and began shooting passengers when doors opened at 36th Street in Sunset Park. He discharged the weapon 33 times. Witnesses say his gun jammed. It could have been worse. It could have been deadly.

Adults were shot and injured, and five teens aged 12 to 16 years old.

An All-Points-Bulletin was put out to find a quickly named “person of interest,” Frank James, 62, with Wisconsin and Philadelphia addresses.

James’ social media posts, it is reported, talked about homelessness, guns, issues of New York City, and Mayor Eric Adams.

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell stated that extra security had been assigned to the mayor. In one YouTube video attributed to James, a man says: “I’m doing all this talking because I just don’t give a f… no more. What’s the lyric of the song, ‘F… the whole world.’”

Police claim they found James’ credit card in a bag with other guns, munitions, fireworks, and U-haul key on the N train. This, they say, led them to a U-haul truck which James reportedly rented and parked in Gravesend, a few miles away.

The city has been hammered by critics however. The police $10 billion-plus budget has  been called into question again in terms of deployment of resources and manpower. And also, reportedly there were no working cameras at the 36th Street station. This, they point out, would have given a clear video of what happened, as opposed to citizen journalists posting and turning in cell phone videos.

Controversial journalist and social media activist Shaun King posted, “HOW????? It damn near looks fishy at this point. ⁣You can’t make this up. ⁣The first NYPD officer on the scene of the mass shooting said his radio DID NOT WORK and asked passengers to call 911 instead.⁣ Cameras didn’t work.⁣ Inside or outside.⁣ Radios didn’t work.⁣ Trains weren’t stopped.⁣ A complete systems failure from the @NYPD. ⁣A clusterf..k of epic proportions from the police department with the BIGGEST BUDGET IN THE WORLD. ⁣Nearly $11 billion per year.⁣”

There was wall-to-wall news coverage. TV breaking news had witnesses, politicians, activists and always-something-to-say regular New Yorkers giving detailed versions of events. Calls of concern from all over the world came to the Amsterdam News offices.

Everyday New Yorkers—turned into hero citizens—aided limping fellow riders, and they tied makeshift tourniquets to stop blood gushing out of bullet-ripped limbs.

When the train pulled into the station, panicked riders rushed out of the subway car as smoke billowed out as people spilled out onto the bloodstained platforms.

Shell cases littered the subway cars, blood pools and splatter, discarded shoes marked the spot where people fell, stumbled and ran from the smoke.

Riders such as Kenneth Foote-Smith praised MTA staff, and particularly the conductor who told them to get on a R train which had just pulled up, a fear was though, that the shooter too had gotten on.

There was a massive city, state and federal response.

“We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized even by a single individual,” a COVID-positive quarantining Mayor Eric Adams said, as police still scoured the city for the unapprehended active shooter.

With a Level 1 response, Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park looked like a veritable movie scene with every type  of emergency vehicle with flashing lights, and multi-agency alphabet teams from NYPD, FDNY, EMS, ATF, and the FBI.

Touting the need for his anti-gun unit, and the need for the doubled-up police presence on the city streets, blaming once again the “over-proliferation of guns on the streets,” Adams claimed that the NYPD has taken “1,800 guns of our streets; 10% of them were ghost guns.”

In a joint statement Sunset Park electeds Council Member Alexa Avilés and Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes said, “What our community needs right now is reassurance that we will not be abandoned in the aftermath of this morning’s incident—that our pain will not be used as a scapegoat for policies that won’t keep us safer. We know that more police presence on trains or in neighborhoods would not have prevented this. According to reports, police were on the scene and turned to commuters for help calling 911. We need investments in social services—housing, healthcare, and education—to cultivate true public safety, and just as urgently, we must stop the manufacturing and flow of guns in our country.” 

“This is the new normal in New York,” one rider said.

Asked about the notion that he would introduce metal detectors to subways, Adams said he was in favor of looking into all available technology in the fight against crime. 

While Hochul and general law enforcement refused to call it terrorism, and act as if it was a lone wolf assault, the following day some nervous riders took to the subway in order to engage their usual and essential routine. Many others erred on the side of caution and did not.

Two men were stabbed at Harlem’s 135th Street a few hours later, and several shootings took place later the same day.

On Tuesday, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said, “This morning, Sunset Park commuters were assaulted by a senseless act of violence. As always in a time of crisis, Brooklynites experienced the swift reaction of our city’s first responders, including the MTA, NYPD, and FDNY. I am deeply heartened to see the Sunset Park community coming together during this time of tragedy—Brooklyn stands with you.”

Determining “this act of cowardice…must be condemned,” Brooklyn Councilmember Darlene Mealy said, “I am horrified and angry that a person or persons unknown have chosen to terrorize ordinary Brooklynites going about their daily business on our busy subway system at a Sunset Park subway station that injured 16 people—at least 5 seriously…People need to feel safe in the subway…It is my hope that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this heinous act will be caught and made to feel the full weight of the law.”

Locked down by COVID, a pretty-much symptom-free Adams said he would remain in Gracie Mansion until his quarantine was up. “I wish to thank all of the first responders who responded to the scene or at the local hospitals, helping with today’s incident. You are what makes New York the greatest city in the world, and I thank you for supporting your fellow New Yorkers.”

Thanking “first responders, transit workers, and the heroic fellow commuters who immediately sprung into action to help get wounded passengers to safety,” Council Member Avilés and Assemblymember Mitaynes stated, “Their actions likely saved lives. We’re also thankful for our school principals’ quick response to keep our students safe and families informed.

“We are still coming out of the collective trauma of this pandemic, and today’s events only add to our community’s pain. We have lost over 60,000 New Yorkers as a result of COVID-19. New Yorkers are experiencing record unemployment, extreme food insecurity, loss of jobs and housing, and inadequate services.”

Looking for solutions to the surge of city criminal and mental health induced anti-community violence, the Sunset Park officials added, “We are asking our partners in city, state and federal government for a multi-faceted, effective, and evidence-based public safety response, including abundant mental health resources for the victims in the near-term, in addition to dramatic investments in violence prevention and interruption programs, full employment, and guaranteed housing moving forward—before more people get hurt.”

Brooklyn New York State candidate Hercules Reid noted that New Yorkers experiencing anxiety and reality-based fear is a marked response.

“I also want to acknowledge that for many of us, an attack of this kind is a real fear. Seeing this fear become a reality can trigger emotional distress in the form of anxiety, panic, anger, or even insomnia. I implore us all—especially those of us who felt anxious after hearing the news—to take time out tonight to reach out to loved ones, engage in anxiety-reducing exercises, or simply talk to someone. We are a strong, tough, but also united city, so if you are experiencing any fear or emotional distress, be assured that you have the support of me, our community, and our city, so if you are experiencing any fear or emotional distress, be assured that you have the support of me, our community, and our city at large to support you.”

Students from every grade and level use the New York City transit system, including 1.1 million school students and 300,000 CUNY students

“The shooting on our subway system…is the kind of horrifying incident that taps our deepest fears as New Yorkers,” said CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodríguez. “The transit system is an integral part of day-to-day life in New York City, including for CUNY’s 300,000 students, faculty and staff. Our reliance on it speaks to our very ability to travel freely and safely and to meet the many obligations of our work, school and lives. It is very natural then to feel vulnerable and exposed, even for those of us who were fortunate enough to have avoided the trauma of direct exposure. I understand the emotions, and the difficulty that they add to the many challenges we are already facing as we struggle to restore normalcy amid a persistent pandemic.”Matos added, “Incidents like this bring about shared emotions but they also affect each of us in our own ways. If you are struggling to overcome anxiety and fears that were sparked by today’s event, I urge students to contact your campus counseling center or make use of the other services outlined here. Faculty and staff can turn to our employee assistance program for support.

“Let this incident remind us to be especially kind, and to look out for each other.”

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