NEW YORK — Police were still searching Wednesday for a “person of interest” they say left a key to a U-Haul van at the scene of a chaotic shooting attack in a Brooklyn subway during morning rush hour that left dozens injured.
Officials with the New York City Police Department identified Frank James, 62, but stopped short of saying the man was a suspect in the shooting Tuesday morning.
Around two dozen people were injured, but none fatally, in the shooting on a Manhattan-bound train arriving at a Sunset Park subway station, said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell on Tuesday.
The shooter donned a gas mask before setting off two smoke canisters and opening fire while still on the train, Sewell said. The gunman fired 33 times with a Glock 17 9mm semi-handgun, which was also found in the subway, said Chief of Detectives James Essig said. At least 10 people were shot and at least 19 others were taken to hospitals for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to shrapnel wounds.
MORE ON THE BROOKLYN SUBWAY SHOOTING:Person of interest identified in Brooklyn subway train attack that injured about 2 dozen people
HOW THE SHOOTING UNFOLDED:Photos, videos show chaos of Brooklyn subway attack
Police looking into YouTube videos, threats of violence appearing to be tied to person of interest
Two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul van were also found on the train, Essig said. Investigators believe James rented the van in Philadelphia and police found it later Tuesday in Brooklyn, Essig said.
Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday morning on MSNBC that no additional information has come out connecting James to New York City. James has ties to both Wisconsin and Philadelphia, authorities said.
WHERE IS SUNSET PARK:Subway attack shocks Sunset Park, a hub for working-class immigrants: ‘Nothing like this happens here’
Sewell also said police are investigating a number of social media posts appearing to come from James where he mentioned homelessness and Adams. The mayor’s security detail would be tightened out of an “abundance of caution,” she said.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY authorities were reviewing several social media pages, including YouTube videos appearing to feature James discussing a variety of issues from Black rights and slavery to the recent mass shooting in Sacramento and the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
The videos touch on themes of violence, systemic racism and Black superiority. One video posted the day before the attack, the man in the videos said he wanted to harm people. “I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to watch people die.”
Other videos police are reviewing include clips from New York’s subway trains. In a February, a video mentioned the city’s subway safety plan. The man says the plan “is doomed for failure” and refers to himself as a “victim” of the mayor’s mental health program. A January video — called “Dear Mr. Mayor” — is somewhat critical of Adams’ plan to end gun violence, which has become an early focus of the Democrat’s first term in office.
IS IT TERRORISM? Brooklyn subway shooting is not being investigated as terrorism ‘at this time.’ Here’s why.
Eric Adams: City will look into new technologies, including metal detectors, for subways
Adams said during an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday morning the city was exploring all “legal” technologies to keep the subways safe and detect any potential weapons entering the system.
Asked about the possibility of adding metal detectors, Adams said it was a possibility but that the detectors would not be like the ones common at airports, rather less invasive technologies that riders may not even notice.
Adams said a safe and reliable subway system was essential for New York City. “It’s the lifeblood of our city. It’s the great equalizer,” he said on MSNBC.
Cities around US ramp up subway police patrols, Brooklyn neighborhood on edge
The attack sparked fears in riders taking the nation’s subway system. Police in other major U.S. cities increased their presence in public transit as a result.
The BART system around the San Francisco Bay Area, SEPTA in Philadelphia and Washington’s Metro were among the major public transit systems adding police officers or on a high alert after the attack.
In Sunset Park, residents were shocked their working-class, predominately immigrant neighborhood became the center of a violent attack Tuesday.
“Violence on the subway isn’t new to our area, but seeing so many people so terrified and so many people saying they saw people covered in blood, it’s crazy,” said Rogelio Miranda, a cashier at a supermarket near the Brooklyn subway stop.
“Nothing like this happens here,” said Rosario Moreno, who lived in Sunset Park for 17 years. “I feel lost and scared.”
Sunset Park was once predominantly home to Scandinavian immigrants until people from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic began arriving before 1970, followed later by Mexicans and more Central Americans.
Chinese immigrants looking to settle and start businesses outside of the city’s crowded Chinatown began settling in the area during the late 1980s. They often told newcomers from China taking the trains from Manhattan to get out at the “blue sky stop,” a reference to Sunset Park, where the subway lines emerged from tunnels into the open air.
Contributing: Kevin McCoy, Gabriela Miranda, Swapna Venugopal and N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY; Eduardo Cuevas, Rockland/Westchester Journal News