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What we know about Tuesday’s subway shooting in NYC's Sunset Park

A NYPD Crimestoppers placard with two photos of Frank R. James on it.
New York Police Department
Police are looking for Frank R. James, 62, who was identified as a "person of interest" in connection with Tuesday's subway shooting.

BREAKING: NYPD is now calling Frank R. James a "suspect." The department issued this alert on its Twitter account just after 9 a.m. Wednesday:

"On 4/12/22 at 8:30 AM, Frank Robert James fired numerous gun shots inside an 'N' line subway car at 36th St & 4th Ave subway station causing serious injuries to 10 people. Anyone with info about the incident or his whereabouts should contact or call 1-800-577-TIPS."

Updates rolled in sporadically throughout Tuesday as authorities and city residents tried to make sense of the early morning shooting that rattled the commute for straphangers in Brooklyn. By the day’s end, authorities had numbers to quantify the injured and images of a person of interest possibly connected to the act.

Here’s what we know so far

At a press conference Tuesday night, police identified a “person of interest” in connection to the shooting. Frank R. James, 62, was named as a “person of interest” associated with the subway shooting in Sunset Park on Tuesday morning that left 10 people with gunshot wounds and an additional 13 injured from panic attacks or smoke inhalation during the rush to escape, the NYPD said during an evening press conference Tuesday. NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the city was “truly fortunate that this was not significantly worse,” as there were no deaths to report from this incident.

The shots rang out at 8:24 a.m. on a Manhattan-bound N train between the 59th street and 36th street stations, police said. Four of the victims were young people aged 12, 13, 16 and 18. The oldest victim was 46 years old.

Chief of Detectives James Essig said Tuesday night that the suspected shooter left items behind at the scene, including a weapon — a Glock nine millimeter handgun, and a set of keys, which police linked to a U-Haul van registered in James’ name. Police found that van about four miles away from the scene in Gravesend and traced it to James, saying it was registered in his name. James remained at large early Wednesday morning, however.

Police said he was tied to addresses in both Wisconsin and Philadelphia. Other items cops said they found at the scene reportedly linked to the suspect were bullet magazines, a hatchet and gasoline. A reward of $50,000 was also offered up to anyone who helped police land an arrest in connection to the shooting.

Reports from the scene

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as violence unfolded on a Manhattan-bound N train at the 36th Street subway station. The suspect, witnesses said, wore a gas mask before detonating a smoke device aboard the busy train and firing his weapon more than 30 times.

WNYC’s Juliana Fonda was on the N train when the shots started.

“People were pounding and looking behind them, running, trying to get on to the train,” Fonda said. “The door locked between cars and the people behind us — there were a lot of loud pops and there was smoke in the other car.”

Subway disruptions

By the evening, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had posted several cancellations and reroutes throughout the subway system as authorities worked to clean up and investigate the crime scene in Sunset Park.

The D, N, and R trains stopped running in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The D, F, M, N, Q and R trains also reported “major delays.”

The N train stopped running between Atlantic Ave./Barclays Center and 8 Ave. as well. But by Wednesday morning, D, N and R trains were stopping at the 36th Street station in Brooklyn in both directions, though delays may be ongoing.

Riders in the pre-dawn hours started filing into the station telling Gothamist they were anxious but undeterred.

"You can’t let one person alter your life, gotta keep on, keep on going,” said Michael Torres, a FedEx worker, as he boarded an R train.

Police milled about the station's mezzanine but only one cop was on the platform as rush hour got underway Wednesday.

Nearby schools sheltered in place

Several schools near the scene of the shooting locked down for part of the day, telling administrators to lock their doors and to keep children and staff inside. Schools Chancellor David Banks asked all students in the Sunset Park area to shelter in place and also to cancel some after-school extracurricular activities. The lockdown was lifted around the time of regular dismissal.

Sick from COVID-19, Mayor Adams faced the crisis from Gracie Mansion

Mayor Eric Adams, two days into a five-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, went on a media blitz from home in the aftermath of the shooting, suiting up for the cameras from Gracie Mansion.

He decried the “senseless act of violence” and called on the federal government to step up to prevent gun tragedies like that from ever plaguing the city, or country, again.

“We cannot allow a terror to terrorize us so that we don't continue to function as a city,” he said, during an interview on CNN Tuesday. “We don't know what is the source of this incident yet. But I call on New Yorkers to continue to be as resilient as we have often been.”

What does this mean as the city tries to recover ridership to pre-pandemic levels?

Already grappling with lower ridership figures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA faced another potential setback as the city braced for fearful straphangers staying off of trains after Tuesday’s incident.

The mayor tried to assure riders to feel safe riding the subway, adding that he would be devoting more officers to the system.

“We’re telling passengers if they see something, say something, and do something by communicating with the law enforcement officers who will be in the system,” Adams said on WNYC Tuesday afternoon. “I want my officers riding the train, at the stations. We need that omnipresence.”