NYPD search for person of interest in subway attack: Frank James

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) -- The NYPD has identified a person of interest connected the mass shooting at the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park that left at least 23 people injured, including 10 shot, during rush hour on Tuesday morning, authorities said, amid a manhunt for the suspect who authorities said put on a gas mask, set off smoke bombs and then opened fire at passengers on a train and platform.

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Frank James, 62, is said to be connected to the attack, but it is unclear whether he is the gunman at this time. Authorities said he had rented a U-Haul van that has been linked to the subway shooting via a key that was found in the shooter's possessions at the crime scene.

"We are endeavoring to locate him to determine his connection to the subway shooting if any," Chief of Detectives James Essig said.

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said 10 people were shot and additional 13 people were injured.

Sewell said no one suffered life-threatening injuries in the shooting, which happened aboard a Manhattan-bound N train as it waited to enter the 36th Street station at 8:24 a.m.

Sewell said a man had donned a gas mask and then took a canister out of bag and opened it. The train filled with smoke and he opened fire, striking multiple people on the train and platform.

The commissioner said the suspect is a Black male, about 5 feet 5 inches tall with a heavy build. He was wearing a neon orange/green construction vest, a gray hooded sweatshirt, surgical mask and neon green construction helmet.

Police are asking the public to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS. A $50,000 reward is being offered in return for the suspect's location. The FBI also launched a website to submit tips.

Authorities recovered a Glock 17 9mm handgun, three extended Glock-type magazines at the shooting scene. One magazine was in the weapon, one was recovered under a subway seat, and one was found in a backpack. Essig said police found 33 discharged shell casings at the crime scene on the subway, as well as 15 bullets, 5 bullet fragments, 2 detonated smoke grenades, 2 non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, a black garbage can, a black rolling cart, gasoline and a U-Haul key.

Police found a credit card at the scene of Tuesday's shooting that led them to identify James, a law enforcement source told The Associated Press, adding that the credit card was used to rent a U-Haul van with Arizona plate #AL31408 that police located around 5 p.m. on Kings Highway in Brooklyn.

"James is just a person of interest we know right now who rented that U-Haul van in Philadelphia," Essig added. "The keys to that U-Haul van were found in the subway in our shooter's possessions. We don't know right now if Mr. James has any connection to the subway. That's under investigation."

Sewell said Tuesday night that the NYPD is beefing up Mayor Eric Adams' security detail due to the person of interest's social media posts, which included references to New York City, homelessness and Adams.

At an earlier briefing, Gov. Kathy Hochul said, “This is an active-shooter situation right now in the city of New York.”

Of the victims, the governor said, “They left their homes en route to school, en route to their jobs and to a normal day. That sense of tranquility and normalness was brutally disrupted by an individual so coldhearted and depraved of heart that they had no caring about the individuals that they assaulted.”

Hochul said, “we are sick and tired of reading headlines about crime” and that she is committing the full resources of the state “to fight this surge in crime, this insanity that is seizing our city, because we want to get back to normal.”

Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on April 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on April 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Photo credit AP Photo/John Minchillo

The FDNY said it was called to the scene of a smoke condition a little before 8:30 a.m. at the station and found multiple gunshot victims as well as several "undetonated devices." The NYPD later tweeted that there were "no active explosive devices," however multiple smoke devices were found.

Images on social media show multiple injured people lying on a platform of the station or limping around amid pools of blood and clouds of smoke. Blood also covered the floor of the N train.

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In video obtained by 1010 WINS, gunshots can heard on board the train as passengers rush away. Witnesses said people were already shot before the train arrived at the station. Some passengers escaped into the tunnel as others rushed onto the platform.

“My subway door opened into calamity. It was smoke and blood and people screaming,” eyewitness Sam Carcamo told 1010 WINS, saying he saw a gigantic billow of smoke pouring out of the train once the door opened.

A supermarket worker said he saw crowds of people running from the subway station, including a woman with a gunshot wound to at least one of her legs, maybe both. She was screaming for help and laid down in the street, where she was soon attended to. She was said to be among the victims who’s in stable condition.

Video shows multiple people on the ground and blood on the platform at the 36th Street station
Video shows multiple people on the ground and blood on the platform at the 36th Street station. Photo credit Steven Scammacca
This photo provided by Will B Wylde, a person is aided outside a subway car in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022
This photo provided by Will B Wylde, a person is aided outside a subway car in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Photo credit Will B Wylde via AP
In this photo from social media video, passengers run from a subway car in a station in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022
In this photo from social media video, passengers run from a subway car in a station in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Photo credit Will B. Wylde via AP
Blood is seen in an N train car at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park
Blood is seen in an N train car at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park. Photo credit Provided

Mayor Eric Adams, who is isolating at Gracie Mansion with COVID-19, released a video message, saying City Hall is in close contact with city, state and federal officials.

"We're praying for all New Yorkers who were injured or affected by today's attack," the mayor said. "The suspect in today's attack detonated smoke bombs to cause havoc. We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized even by a single individual. NYPD is searching for the suspect at large, and we will find him. But we ask the public to come forward with any information."

Speaking on CNN a short time later, Adams said "we do not have a positive ID [on a suspect] at this time."

Adams said the city is doubling the number of transit officers in the system.

"I would say to New Yorkers, we're going to have, we're going to hold the day tour of the transit police officers to double the number of officers that are traditionally patrolling the system,” the mayor said.

He told WCBS 880 the camera system at the subway station appeared to have experienced "some sort of malfunction" and an investigation is underway.

"The preliminary review stated that at that particular station there appeared to have been some form of malfunction with the camera system," Adams said on WCBS 880. "That is still under investigation. We are communicating with the MTA to find out was it throughout the entire station or was it just one camera so that's still something that we are looking into."

Members of the FDNY gather at the site of a shooting at the 36 St subway station on April 12, 2022 in New York City
Members of the FDNY gather at the site of a shooting at the 36 St subway station on April 12, 2022 in New York City. Photo credit David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
This photo provided by Will B Wylde, a person is aided in a subway car in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022
This photo provided by Will B Wylde, a person is aided in a subway car in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Photo credit Will B. Wylde via AP

As the investigation continues, a police official told ABC News that law enforcement did get an image of a suspect from a bystander's cell phone video. The police official said the suspect was seen mumbling to himself before putting on the gas mask and shooting.

Investigators believe the weapon jammed, preventing the suspect from continuing to fire, officials said. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has completed an urgent trace to identify the gun's manufacturer, seller and initial owner.

Investigators are examining the subway cars to look for possible fingerprints or other evidence left behind by the suspect, according to CBS News. A tote-like bag with a hatchet, pepper spray, two gas canisters, and smoke grenades were also found at the scene. Authorities are also collecting surveillance video from surrounding businesses, interviewing witnesses and using NYPD canines.

A law enforcement source told CBS News that it appears to have been “a planned attack.” There is no known motive, and if it was a planned attack, it’s unclear if it was terrorism or a criminal act, the source said. Part of the reason investigators haven't ruled out terrorism is because they haven't identified the suspect, so they can't determine if he has ties to a terrorist group.

The FBI's New York field office is assisting the NYPD in its investigation, as is the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

"The FBI’s and NYPD’s joint-terrorism task force is made up of over 50 agencies and we are fully-engaged on this investigation," said Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the FBI New York field office. "It’s still very much in its early stages. Our focus right now – our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. We’re following every viable lead and will continue to do so with the NYPD and our other city partners."

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 April 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
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 April 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Law enforcement gather near the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Law enforcement gather near the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Photo credit AP Photo/Kevin Hagen

Video shows a massive police and FDNY response outside the station with helicopters overhead and large crowds of onlookers. A number of schools in the area sheltered in place.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said the DOE's shelter-in-place order impacted all schools within a 1-mile radius of 36th Street and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. “This means students may not leave their buildings, and there is enhanced screening for adults entering. This is not a full lockdown, in which no one would be able to leave or enter schools buildings,” he said.

President Joe Biden, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other local and federal officials have all been briefed on the shooting.

"[Biden] has been briefed on the latest developments regarding the New York City subway shooting," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "White House senior staff are in touch with Mayor Adams and Police Commissioner Sewell to offer any assistance as needed."

In Iowa, Biden said his administration will remain in "close contact" with New York City officials and said "we're not letting up" until "we find that perpetrator."

"My wife Jill and I are praying for those who are injured, all those touched by that trauma, and we're grateful for all of the first responders who jumped in action, including civilians, civilians who didn't hesitate to help their fellow passengers and try to shield them," he said. "My team has been in touch with Mayor Adams and New York's Police Commissioner, and the Department of Justice and the FBI are working closely with the NYPD on the ground."

He added, "We're gonna continue to stay in close contact with New York authorities, and as we learn more about the situation over the coming hours and days. And something could have broken between now and the last hour, I haven't heard the news, I haven't spoken with anyone on my staff, but we're not letting up on it until we find out, and we find that the perpetrator."

Vice President Kamala Harris said her "heart" was with those injured in Tuesday's shooting.

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

In response to Tuesday's attack, New York City's Unified Victim Identification System was activated to locate loved ones if people are concerned about the wellbeing of someone.

The NYPD earlier urged people to avoid the area at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue “due to an investigation.” It’s the location of the 36th Street station serving the D, N, Q, R and W lines.

“Expect emergency vehicles and delays in the surrounding area,” the NYPD tweeted.

A number of MTA services have also been adjusted in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's subway shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.