The survivors of Tuesday morning’s subway attack in Brooklyn have described how they sat next to the gunman as he pulled an ax and gun from his duffle bag before he threw a smoke grenade and fired 33 shots, leaving 10 people injured with bullet wounds.
A witness said the suspect said ‘Oops, my bad’, as he opened one of his gas tanks and filled the subway car with smoke when it was between stations, before he pulled out his weapons and opened fire.
A multi-state manhunt is now underway for Frank James, 62, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the attack, with police offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Police said the keys found at the crime scene belong to an abandoned U-Haul truck in Brooklyn that was rented by James and the suspect also made ‘concerning’ threats against New York City Mayor Eric James and railed against the city’s homelessness crisis in social media posts.
Passenger Fitim Gjeloshi said he remembers the harrowing moment the gunman, who is still at large, decided to fill the subway carriage with smoke before opening fire.
‘I looked him, and I thought to myself he was talking to himself for a while, so I looked at him, and I was like, ‘This guy must be on drugs’,’ he told the New York Post.
‘When [the train] was about to hit 36th street, we stopped for 5 minutes. He takes out a gas mask from one of his little luggage[s]. He opened one of his gas tanks, and he said, ‘Oops, my bad’. He pulls out an ax, he drops it, he takes a gun out, he starts shooting.’
‘One guy gets shot right next to me. He says, “Help! Help!”,’ Gjeloshi said. ‘I tell some person to help him out, cover the blood for him. I jump over, I bang the door and I kicked it with my leg.’
Terrified passengers tried to get out of the carriage where the gunman was shooting passengers, but the door was locked. When the train pulled into 36th Street station in Sunset Park, injured passengers were seen laying on the floor that was streaked with blood as the gunman fled.
At least 29 people people were injured in the attack, 10 of them with bullet wounds. No casualties have been reported.
Hourari Benkada, 27, another survivor of the shooting who is recovering in the hospital after being shot in the knee, said he sat right next to the gunman who went to shoot him and nine others.
Benkada is ‘shocked’ and ‘shaky’ and doesn’t know if he can ever again ride the subway, which has seen a rise in crime in recent months.
‘I was on 59th street on the R train transferring to the N train on 59th, so it was the first car, last seats.
‘I’m not really paying attention to that, so I just walk in. I sat down and the guy is right next to me, and all you see is a black smoke bomb going off and then people bum-rushing to the back,’ Benkada told CNN‘s John Berman.
He stopped to help a pregnant woman and was pushed by the panicked crowd. He was shot behind his right knee, but doctors expect him to walk on his own after several weeks on crutches.
Hourari Benkada, 27, says he was sitting right next to the gunman before he let off a smoke bomb and opened fire on passengers aboard an N train in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning
Benkada (left) says he stopped to help a pregnant woman but couldn’t make much sense of the scene as he was distracted and listening to music like he would during any commute. Benkada, a hotel housekeeping manager, was shot in the back of the knee (right). The bullet came out through the side of his knee and grazed his kneecap. He’s expected to walk on his own again
Hourari Benkada (wearing red hoodie) , 27, sat next to the man with a duffle bag and MTA vest before Tuesday’s subway attack
He remembers ‘a black smoke bomb going off and then people bum-rushing to the back.’ Above, terrified passengers run off the train Tuesday morning
NYPD are hunting for Frank James, described as a ‘person of interest’ in the shooting. No suspects have been named as of yet
BROOKLYN SUBWAY SHOOTING – WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
- Unidentified gunman wearing grey hoodie and green construction vest opened fire on northbound N train at 8.24am
- Police have described Frank James as ‘a person of interest’
- He is known to the FBI, having been on their radar in New Mexico until he was cleared following ‘multiple interviews’ in 2019
- He is believed to have travelled from New Mexico
- A U-Haul was rented in Philadelphia and used in connection with the shooting
- That U-Haul was found five miles from the scene on King’s Highway, Brooklyn
- A credit card found on the scene of the shooting matched the credit card used to rent the U-Haul
- The suspect put on a gas mask then detonated a smoke bomb that was in his bag before firing the first shots
- Panicked commuters tried to flee into the next subway car but the door was locked – they were trapped until the train reached 36th street
- The gunman somehow vanished in the chaos – some fear he may have jumped onto the tracks and entered the subway tunnels
- Police found a .380 handgun and three extended magazines in backpack at the Brooklyn station
- Sixteen people were taken to NYC hospitals – ten were shot, four suffered smoke inhalation and another two were in shock
- NYPD is going door-to-door in Brooklyn asking for information, surveillance camera footage and pictures
- Anyone with information about the shooting or gunman is urged to call 800 577 TIPS
Overall crime in New York City is up 44.3 percent from last year. Transit crimes are up 68 percent and shooting incidents are up 8.4 percent, according to to the latest numbers from the NYPD.
Benkada, 27, is a housekeeping manager at the New Yorker Hotel. He’s recovering from his gunshot wounds at the hospital.
He says he sat next to the man with a duffle bag and an MTA vest who would later send him there.
The morning commuter says he doesn’t remember many specifics because he was distracted and wearing his headphones. He says the gunman wore a mask, so he wasn’t able to compare him to James, the NYPD’s person of interest.
Benkada said he was ‘shaking’ during Tuesday’s CNN interview, conducted via FaceTime as he recovers in the hospital. ‘I don’t even know how I’m holding my phone,’ he said.
He remembers black smoke and people rushing to the back.
‘Oh my god, I’m pregnant,’ one woman told her. He hugged her and was later shot in the back of the knee while trying to run away.
He says the shooting felt like it took over a minute.
‘It sounded like the loudest thing I ever heard in my life,’ he said, calling the wound ‘the worst pain of my entire life.’
‘We were trying to break the door, and the train took forever to reach the station. Once it opened at 36th St., I was in so much pain,’ Benkada said in a separate interview with the New York Daily News.
A bullet hit him in the back of the knee and came out of the other side. Doctors told him it grazed his kneecap, but he’s expected to recover after several weeks on crutches.
‘I was just so shocked that the pain didn’t hit me until after,’ he said on CNN.
He said he managed to make it up a flight of stairs by himself.
‘Every cop that passed by me just ignored me. They were just thinking, maybe, ‘Focus on the shooter.”
Benkada said he told the confused worker at the booth that he needed ‘a lot of napkins’ because he was bleeding.
‘After five or 10 minutes, two firefighters helped me on their shoulders,’ he said. ‘I was just so shocked, I just wanted get out of there after hearing all those shots firing off.’
Another passenger, Fitim Gjeloshi, says he remembers the moment the gunman pulled out the smoke bomb and said, ‘Oops, my bad.’
Gjeloshi says the gunman began shooting and that a bullet narrowly missed him. He showed the Daily News a photo of a bullet hole that went through his pants without hitting the right area of his groin.
He remembers jumping over seats and yelling for people to switch cars, but the door at the end wasn’t working. He says he ‘kicked the handle of the door and broke the hell out of it.
‘I think he planned it on purpose because he knew exactly what he was doing,’ Gjeloshi said.
At least 29 people have been taken to the hospital in connection with the subway shooting, CNN said after calling several area hospitals. Ten were shot, while other sustained injuries during the commotion.
The New York Fire Department says it treated a total of 17 people – 15 who were taken to area hospitals and two at the scene.
A teenage boy was shot in the thumb.
‘It was pretty devastating injury to the thumb and it destroyed a lot of a bone, the joint the tendons, the nerves are able to salvage the thumb and it’s alive. And he’ll need some more surgery,’ said surgeon Jack Choueka from Maimonides Medical Center in nearby Borough Park.
‘It’s expected that he’ll have a pretty functioning hand and cosmetically it should look should look very good. So we’re not out of the woods completely on his hand but we’re very happy with the with the results tonight,’ Dr. Choueka said.
A federal law enforcement source told Newsweek the suspect was previously known to the FBI, having been entered into the Guardian Lead system in New Mexico.
The system is the FBI’s way of coordinating information from other law enforcement partners about potential terrorism-related threats and suspicious activity reports.
He was cleared after multiple interviews in 2019.
The federal law enforcement source said that he is believed to have driven to New York from New Mexico.
The FBI has now joined the hunt for him and armed police units are patrolling Brooklyn for any clue of his whereabouts.
Frank James, 62, has now been named as someone police want to speak to regarding the attack.
‘We are looking to determine if he has any connection to the train,’ said NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig.
‘We know Mr James rented that U-Haul truck in Philadelphia.’
The key of the U-Haul van was found at the crime scene in the subway, the official said.
The U-Haul was found five miles from the scene of the shooting.
Keechant Sewell, the NYPD chief, said they recovered from the scene a 9mm semi automatic handgun, extended magazines, a hatchet, gasoline, consumer-grade fireworks and a hobby fuse.
‘We still do not know the suspect’s motivation,’ said Sewell.
Sewell said James made concerning social media posts about homelessness in New York City, and threats to Mayor Eric Adams. Adams’s security was stepped up as a result.
‘This person of interest in today’s subway shooting in Brooklyn has made past comments about @NYCMayor,’ said Adams’s spokesman, Fabien Levy.
‘Out of an abundance of caution, @NYPD will increase Mayor Adams’ security presence until this man has been questioned.’
The officials said James has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, and they are still investigating whether he has ties to New York.
The U-Haul that police believe is connected to the Brooklyn subway shooter is shown on Tuesday at 1780 West Third Street near King’s Highway in Brooklyn, five miles from the subway station where the attack took place. A bomb squad is at the scene
Overall crime in New York City is up 44.3% from last year. Transit crimes are up 68% as the city battles a rise in crime that started during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic
‘This is Frank James. He is a person of interest in the shooting that took place on the N train in Brooklyn Tuesday morning,’ they tweeted.
‘Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call at 1-800-577-TIPS.’
Police are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to James’s arrest. The MTA and Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 both offered $12,500 each in reward money and the New York City Police Foundation offered $25,000 in reward money to bring the total reward offering to $50,000.
No arrests have been made.
On Tuesday night, they published a photo of James taken from his YouTube account, where he posted videos under the name ‘Prophet of Truth88.’
His expletive-filled videos feature him ranting about the state of the world as he sees it; airing his grievances; threatening to ‘kill everything in sight’ and sharing conspiracy theories – such as claiming that the Twin Towers could never have been brought down on 9/11 by planes.
He references psychiatric facilities he has attended in the Bronx and in New Jersey, saying the staff failed to help him and ‘made me more dangerous’.
‘Mr. Mayor, I’m a victim of your mental health program,’ James said in one lengthy video.
‘I’m 63 now full of hate, full of anger, and full of bitterness.’
He also criticized the mayor for not doing more to combat homelessness.
‘Eric Adams, Eric Adams: What are you doing brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation,’ he said while referring to the subway.
‘Every car I went to was loaded with homeless people. It was so bad I couldn’t even stand. I had to keep moving from car to car.’
He continued: ‘He can’t stop no crime in no subways. He may slow it down but he ain’t stopping it.’
‘That means you’d have to have police in every station and that’s just not possible,’ he added.
The NYPD said they were increasing security for Adams after police discovered the videos.
This bag of fireworks, wire and firecrackers was recovered from the scene of the shooting on Tuesday after the suspect fled
The bag was filled with Falcon Rising fireworks and Seismic Wave Crackers that can easily be purchased online
A man on the northbound N train before the doors opened covering his mouth to protect from the smoke from the gunman’s grenade
Pictures from the scene showed blood strewn across the subway cart in the latest senseless attack to rock New York City
New Yorkers lie on the platform at 36th Street station after falling out of the northbound N train. They were shot on the train by a gunman who unleashed a smoke bomb and then opened fire before fleeing at around 8.30am
Mayor Eric Adams, who is in quarantine after being diagnosed with COVID-19, said in a video message: ‘We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized.
A .38 caliber handgun similar to the type used in today’s shooting
‘The NYPD is searching for the suspect. We will find him.’
Adams asked anyone with information, photos or videos of the suspect to come forward.
Governor Kathy Hochul said: ‘This morning ordinary New Yorkers woke up in anticipation of a relatively normal day. They left their homes, went to school, their jobs and to a normal life.
‘That was brutally disrupted by an individual so cold hearted and depraved of heart. This individual is still on the loose – this person is dangerous. This is an active shooter situation right now in the city of New York.’
Schools surrounding the subway station were ordered to shelter in place and an amber alert was issued throughout much of the city.
One witness, Yav Montano, told CNN that he was on the northbound N train between 59th Street in Brooklyn and 36th Street when a smoke bomb went off inside the carriage.
‘I thought he was an MTA worker at first because I was like, I didn’t like pay too much attention. You know? You’ve got the orange on,’ he said.
Police and emergency services are seen near 36 Street subway station after a shooting incident on Tuesday afternoon
An FBI agent walks along the sidewalk amidst a massive police response on the scene of a reported multiple shooting at a New York City Subway station in Brooklyn on Tuesday
‘It was crazy. I take the N train every morning to get to where I need to work. From 59th Street to 36th Street, the N-train is express, is where all the dramatics happened.
‘I’m in the third part of the express N train. The smoke grenade went off two minutes before we got to 36th street platform. The train was inching towards. It seemed like it was planned.
‘This smoke bomb, and what I thought was fireworks, but I’m hearing it was gunshots. I have no words for what I could see. I was in the car – I was in the front end of the third car. Everything happened at the back end.
‘People started migrating to the front of the car. I don’t know if people know this, it’s one of those old things where they locked the door to stop people traveling between trains.
‘There were people in the other car who saw what was happening and they tried to open it but couldn’t. There was blood on the floor, a lot of blood trailing on the floor.
‘At the time, I didn’t think it was a shooting. It sounded like fireworks.
‘People trampling over each other, trying to get over each other. Thankfully the train moved to the next stop and everyone filed off the train,’ he said.