Brooklyn Subway Attack

Kendall Schmidt

On April 12th, a gunman shot ten Brooklyn subway riders on the N train heading towards the 36th Street station. Firing a total of 33 shots, immense chaos broke out in the subway, with five riders seeking emergency assistance and the rest injured. The public safety of riders of the New York subway system has been questioned for years, but this event put the seriousness of these perilous situations into perspective. The shooter, disguised in a gas mask, placed two smoke canisters in the train in order to create a distraction to allow him to open fire. Live video recordings of the event show citizens running out of the train cars, filled with gas, to the sound of gunshots in the background. Kenneth Foote-Smith, a victim on the scene reports, “‘You start seeing faces against the glass, and it’s people, several women, banging against the glass, screaming’” (Dienst). Moreover, investigators dub this attack as pre planned due to evidence found in a bag at the station: a semiautomatic handgun, fireworks, a bottle of gasoline with a fuse, and a hatchet. Once the weapon for the attack was found, an immediate investigation began to trace the identity of the buyer. Although there were no fatalities, this shooting left the public scared and skeptical about the safety of public transportation. In an interview with Italian teacher, Prof Castano, when asked about what authorities can do to make the subway safer he stated, “First of all, they should improve the security camera system because none of them were even working at the time of the shooting. How could the security cameras of a major train station in NYC be broken?” I asked Erin Poppe, a junior student at Ramapo, her opinion on the matter as well. She replied, “There should always be an officer on every train 24/7, just like security at airports and on planes.” 

Others who had not been injured directly from the gunshots endured other grueling circumstances. Inhalation from the gas caused people to faint and the mayhem caused by the crowd induced panic attacks. Some of the wounded riders on the far end of the station attempted to hop on other trains that headed to other stations for their safety. Victims of the assault were taken to local hospitals, including four children between the ages of 12 and 16. Local schools went on lockdown and politicians began to urge more police patrol on the subways to prevent a future attack.

In regard to finding the suspect, a key to a U-Haul van was found in the station that authorities believed may have correlated to the gunman. A man, coming out of the van, appeared to match the physical description of the shooter. The initial suspect was 62-year-old, Frank James, who had a clear criminal record. Since the motive was unknown, this attack was first dubbed an act of terrorism (Dienst). As the investigation ensued, the suspect, Frank James called in a tip to the police department, admitting to the crime and giving them his location. The police acted swiftly and found James in a nearby location and they then took him into custody (Vogt). After this tragedy, the New York governor and mayor have advised making strides in establishing more limitations on gun use to better public safety. As for riders, there are many precautions to ensure safety. First, always be aware of your surroundings, and if anyone looks suspicious, report it immediately. Never stand too close to the tracks because it is easy to fall or be pushed into an oncoming train. Especially nowadays, it is imperative that you stay alert at all times because this type of violence is inevitable.