Bystander shot in leg during dispute near Penn Station in Manhattan, police say

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A manhunt is underway after a bystander was shot in the leg outside Penn Station as the result of a dispute between two other men Monday night, according to officials.

NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea says a 58-year-old man was the unintended victim of a shooting on West 31st Street and Seventh Avenue around 5:42 p.m.

He says a dispute between the shooter and his intended target inside Penn Station spilled out onto the streets and may have been over food.

Police say the intended target was a man inside Penn Station who was eating food. The man, who is from Arizona, was planning to meet his wife before the incident took place.

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"The shooter comes up to the male that's eating food downstairs, possibly asking for some food. He's kind of shunned away, and that kind of spills onto the street here," Shea said.

That's when police say the shooter took out a gun and fired one round, which struck the 58-year-old innocent bystander who was waiting for a cab on the northwest corner of West 31st Street Seventh Avenue, just outside the NJ Transit entrance of Penn Station.

"All we heard was a huge pop, and people running, and they just started falling," Elias Aguiluz said.

Tourists, like the Aguiluz family from Salt Lake City, were among those who ducked for cover across the street as people scrambled when gunfire rang out in the middle of the evening commute.

An NYPD officer on the scene heard the call on the radio, found the wounded man, and applied a tourniquet to his leg before emergency responders got there.

He was taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition and is expected to recover.

Police say none of the men involved in the incident knew each other.

"I know that gunshot wasn't for him, because he doesn't do anything but get coffee and go about his business," taxi stand worker George Harris said. "That shot had nothing to do with him. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Harris works at the taxi stand across the street. He recognized the injured man, who seemed as bewildered as everyone else.

"He was sitting there holding his leg. So, I went over there and said what happened. He said I don't know. So I went and got the officer. The officer said that was a gunshot," Harris said.

Police say the victim who was shot is from New Jersey, while the intended target has only been in New York City for about three months for work.

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The NYPD is looking through surveillance video and hoping to identify and find the shooter.

Officials say the male suspect was seen wearing a black long sleeve t-shirt and a red backpack. So far, no arrests have been made.

This comes amid concerns over rising gun violence in the city since the start of the COVID pandemic.

A frustrated Shea blamed what he calls a confluence of bad policies for yet another innocent bystander getting hurt in Midtown.

"We need people to be held accountable when they carry guns," Shea said.

The commissioner highlighted a shooting that happened just 10 blocks north in Times Square in May, when a 4-year-old girl was shot after an argument erupted into gunfire.
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Meanwhile, for the Aguiluz family, it was their first ever visit to New York, but scary as this was, 13-year-old Joanna says it could happen anywhere and it doesn't change how she feels about a city she'd always wanted to visit.

"A little, but not as much, I would still like to go to school here," she said.


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