At least 16 people were injured, 10 of them by gunfire, in the subway in Brooklyn during the Tuesday morning rush, officials said, after a man released a canister of smoke and opened fire on an N train.
The search for the gunman was being hampered Tuesday afternoon by the fact that a security camera at the 36th Street subway station that might have captured the scene was not operating, Mayor Eric Adams said. There was a “malfunction with the camera system at that particular station,” Mr. Adams said on WCBS 880 radio.
At around 8:24 am, as the train pulled into the station, in the Sunset Park neighborhood, the man, who was wearing a construction vest, put on a gas mask before firing shots that hit people on the train and the nearby platform, said Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell.
The shooting set off panic and chaos aboard the train. It came as the city is already struggling to cope both with a rise in shootings citywide and with an increase in crime and disorder in the subway that has scared commuters from returning to a transit system that saw ridership plummet during the pandemic.
As the train doors opened, sending smoke billowing through the station, fearful riders fled, many of them hurrying onto an R train that happened to be sitting across the platform. Subway seats and cars were streaked with blood as people called for help.
The gunman escaped and remained at large, police officials said. He has not yet been publicly identified. A senior law enforcement official said that a gun had been found inside the subway station.
The official also said that the gunman had driven to New York in a rented U-Haul vehicle.
Mr. Adams, a former police captain, declined on Tuesday to reveal more about the search for the gunman. “This is a very sensitive moment,” he said. “We want to continue to keep those tips close to our vest to make sure that we’re not tipping off the person we’re trying to locate.”
The violence put New York City into a heightened state of alert at a time when residents are already anxious over crime and the city’s continued struggle to recover from the pandemic.
The Fire Department said that five people were in critical condition, but none of them were believed to have suffered life-threatening injuries. Police officers were called to the 36th Street station, where the D, N and R lines all stop, after receiving reports of smoke and gunshots.
John Butsikares, 15, a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School, said his ride on a northbound R train from Bay Ridge had been calm — until the train approached 36th Street. When the doors opened, the conductor directed passengers on the platform to rush inside.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” he said. “There was just panic.”
At a news briefing, Commissioner Sewell said that the police were seeking a man with a heavy build who had been wearing a green construction vest and gray sweatshirt. Gov. Kathy Hochul advised New Yorkers to remain “vigilant and alert,” saying “this is an active shooter situation right now in the City of New York.”
Videos posted on social media showed frightened riders pouring from a train and onto the platform as smoke filled the station. Commissioner Sewell said that no active explosive devices had been found at the scene or on subway trains.
“This is not being investigated as an act of terrorism at this time,” she said, adding that the police had not identified a motive.
Patrick Berry, 41, said he was waiting at the 25th Street station, one stop north, when an R train arrived at around 8:30 am He and his 3-year-old daughter boarded, but the train didn’t move.
“Then suddenly, from the front of the train, I heard people screaming, ‘Run, run, run! Go, go, go!’ And then all these people came sprinting past our car, and I just felt like, ‘Oh my god, this is a stampede,'” Mr. Berry said. “People started pushing out from behind. So I grabbed my daughter, and we ran too.”
Toward the front of the train, three victims were being attended to bystanders. A uniformed police officer approached, asking passengers to call 911 because his radio was not working. One teenager, who identified himself as Fitim, had a hole in his track pants that he said came from a bullet.
Around the 36th Street station, dozens of police vehicles with flashing lights clogged the streets and helicopters flew overhead.
“We saw an ambulance coming out with a stretcher with a person on it,” said Silvana Guerrero, 20, who works at nearby Sunset Bagels Cafe & Grill. “Their leg was injured — I’m not sure exactly what went on or what was going on. And then, we saw after that, two ambulances coming out, with two people, like, hopping on one leg.”
Eight people were treated for injuries sustained in the incident, including gunshot wounds or smoke inhalation, at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, a hospital spokeswoman said. Five others injured were treated at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, two of them with gunshot wounds, and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital said it was treating three patients injured in the shooting.
New York has faced a string of shootings in recent days that have highlighted the challenges in halting a rise in violent crime that is taking place in cities cross the country.
“No more mass shootings. No more disrupting lives. No more creating heartbreak for people just trying to live their lives as normal New Yorkers,” Ms. Hochul said on Tuesday. “It has to end, it ends now.”
Reporting was contributed by Jonah E. Bromwich, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Joseph Goldstein, Andrew Hinderaker, Sadef Ali Kully, Ana Ley, Chelsia Rose Marcius and William K. Rashbaum,