(CNN) — A manhunt is underway for a subway passenger who put on a gas mask, deployed a gas canister and then began shooting at commuters as a train pulled into a Brooklyn subway station on Tuesday morning, injuring at least 16 people, authorities said.
The shooter, who fled the scene, was described as a 5-foot-5-inch Black man with a heavy build wearing a green construction vest and a gray hooded sweatshirt.
“This individual is still on the loose,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “This person is dangerous.”
The FBI is working with the NYPD on the investigation and is following “every viable lead,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI New York Field Office.
The mass shooting occurred just before 8:30 a.m. as a Manhattan-bound N train neared the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. Witnesses riding the subway said that smoke filled the train as it moved between stations, causing havoc aboard, and trails of blood were visible on the floor.
The suspect shot people on the train and on the station platform, NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell said. A gun was recovered in the station, two law enforcement sources told CNN. It’s not clear if it was the gun used in the attack.
First responders arrived to the station and found gunshot victims and others injured in the chaos.
Ten people were shot, including five in critical but stable condition, FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh said. Another six people were injured due to smoke inhalation, shrapnel and panic in the attack, she added. None of the injuries are believed to be life threatening, Sewell said.
Sewell said there are no known active explosive devices on trains. The attack is not being investigated as an act of terrorism but authorities have not ruled anything out, she said.
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The mass shooting comes amid a rise in shootings in New York over the past two years and a particular rise in violence on the subway that has become a focus of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration.
Transit crime, broadly, is up 68% compared to last year, numbers that are closer to where they were at pre-pandemic levels. A total of 617 crimes were reported this year, compared to 367 through the same period last year, according to an NYPD summary of statistics current through Sunday.
Witnesses say smoke engulfed train
Yav Montano told CNN he was on the express train heading to work when smoke filled the subway car and he heard what sounded like fireworks. The train was between stations at the time, so panicked passengers tried to move to another train car to get further away from the smoke, he said.
“The whole car was engulfed in smoke,” he said. “I couldn’t even use my mask anymore because it was black with smoke. It was ridiculous.”
About 40 to 50 people were on the train at the time, he said. He was not sure how many were injured but said he saw a lot of blood on the floor of the train. When the train arrived to the 36th Street station, the passengers fled off the train onto the platform in a rush.
Brooklyn resident Will Wylde was on the subway on Tuesday morning when he heard commotion in the train car next to him. People started banging on the door between subway cars — which are often locked — to try to get through, he said.
A video taken by Wylde shows people rushing off the subway train after it pulls into the station. Smoke pours from the car where the shooting took place, and people are heard screaming, the video shows. An individual is seen helping an injured and bleeding person dressed in a blue hoodie off the train. Another man hobbles off the train shortly after, the video shows.
Police told the public to avoid the area of 36th Street and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, where a large presence of emergency responders gathered.
Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood is located in the southwest part of the borough and has a significant number of residents who are Asian and Hispanic. Each group makes about a third of its more than 135,000 residents, according to US Census data.
The southern part of the neighborhood has emerged as Brooklyn’s Chinatown due to its growing population of immigrants from the Fujian province in China.
Shootings on the rise in New York
The incident comes as violence on the subway and in New York City has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, reversing a decades long decline.
More than 360 people have been shot this year in New York, in 322 shooting incidents, according to data reported by NYPD through Sunday. According to the data, shootings in the city have increased by 8.4 percent from 297 to 322 compared to last year. The number of people injured in those shootings increased from 332 to 363, or 9.3 percent, from 2020 to 2021.
Over the last two years, shootings in New York are up 72.2 percent, and shooting victims up 70.4 percent.
Tuesday’s subway attack is the second mass shooting, defined as at least four people shot, in Brooklyn this year and the fourth in New York State, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The first Brooklyn mass shooting of the year was on January 13 at a Brooklyn event hall.
Including Tuesday’s shooting, there have been 131 mass shootings in America this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun death and injury. Those shootings left 141 people dead and 547 people wounded.
Mass transit systems in the US increased patrols and asked the public to report anything unusual in the wake of the attack.
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