Witnesses describe chaotic scene after NYC subway shootings

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022
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Jim Dolan interviews Hourari Benkada, one of the first victims to be shot during a terrifying attack aboard a subway train in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

SUNSET PARK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Witnesses described a terrifying and chaotic scene after 29 people were shot or otherwise injured in a shooting on a subway train in Brooklyn Tuesday morning.

Police say a lone gunman in a reflective vest and possibly a gas mask threw smoke bombs on the Manhattan-bound N train and opened fire.

"I was a few cars down, and the conductor told everyone to get on the train," said a Brooklyn Tech student who was on the train at the time. "I was just scared, and at the next stop, he told everyone to get off. Everyone evacuated, and I didn't know what happened."

It happened just before 8:30 a.m., and the suspect was seen mumbling to himself before donning the gas mask and removing a canister from a bag before the car began to fill with smoke.

He then opened fire with a handgun, striking several people on the train and on the platform at the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park.

One of the victims described the terror, as well as the pain he felt after being shot in the back of his knee.

"It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life," Hourari Benkada said.

Benkada was in the car with the gunman and was among the first to get shot by him.

"All you see is smoke, black smoke going off and then people bum-rushing to the back, this pregnant woman was in front of me I was trying to help her, I didn't know there were shots at first, I just thought it was a black smoke bomb," Benkada said. "She said 'I'm pregnant with a baby,' I hugged her and then the bum rush continued and that's when I got shot in the back of my knee."

Authorities said a magazine jammed in the gun, which possibly saved lives.

"Like 10 shots went off, I think the gun jammed, I think he like an extended clip or something cause I never heard that many shots come off a handgun," Benkada said.

After passengers spilled onto the platform, everyone who was not wounded was told to get back on the train, which then continued to the 25th Street station in Greenwood Heights.

A manhunt is now underway.

"I saw a lot of people coming out of the train station," said a man who works in the area. "One of them was injured. I believe it was a lady that was getting shot in her leg, and a lot of people was coming up from side to side, screaming, asking for help."

Schools in the area went into a shelter in place as the search continued. All dismissals have since been completed without incident for students across all impacted schools.

Crystal Cranmore has more on the witnesses:

A mother described a chaotic scene after dropping her daughter off at school.

"All you heard was a big, loud noise that sounded like a big bang, an explosion, and then there were people running out of the train station," she said. "So it was just very hectic this morning."

RELATED | Extensive search for gunman in Brooklyn subway shootings, what we know so far

The victims were taken to various hospitals with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Twenty-one victims were taken to NYU Langone to be treated for injuries, 16 of whom have already been released and one other may be released later tonight. Four of those victims are being held overnight and treated for gunshot wounds.

Another five victims were taken to Maimonides and two of them are also staying overnight for gunshot wounds. The other three have already been released.

"This is a shocking and horrible burst of violence in our transit system," Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano said. "TWU Local 100 officers have responded to the affected stations in Brooklyn and have been in contact with train crews and stations personnel. At this time, it appears that no members were physically hurt. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This latest emergency illustrates again why we need Station Agents, and fully staffed trains with both a Conductor and a Train Operator on board, to assist with evacuations and communications."

Mayor Eric Adams, who remains under quarantine due to his COVID diagnosis, released a video statement on his various social media accounts.

"We're praying for all New Yorkers who were injured or affected by today's attack," he said. "So far, we know that we have a multiple number of injuries, including victims of gunshot wounds...We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized even by a single individual. The NYPD is searching for the suspect at large, and we will find him."

Governor Kathy Hochul called the suspect "cold hearted and depraved" and warned that he remains on the loose and dangerous.

"We say no more," she said. "No more mass shootings. No more disrupting lives. No more creating heartbreak for people just trying to live their lives as normal New Yorkers. It has to end and it ends now...Everyone involved in this has one purpose, and it is to stop the insanity of these crimes."

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso released the following statement:

"This morning, Sunset Park commuters were assaulted by a senseless act of violence," he said. "As always in a time of crisis, Brooklynites experienced the swift reaction of our city's first responders, including the MTA, NYPD, and FDNY. I am deeply heartened to see the Sunset Park community coming together during this time of tragedy - Brooklyn stands with you. I will continue to work with local authorities and elected officials as more details of the attack are confirmed and the perpetrator is found."

Nassau County police said they increasing patrols around all critical infrastructure with an emphasis on mass transit, though there is no known threat, and that Commissioner Patrick Ryder has been in conversations with the NYPD and has briefed Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy released a statement on Twitter.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden has been apprised of the situation.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said Attorney General Merrick Garland has also received a preliminary briefing and is monitoring the situation.

Notify NYC urges anyone unable to reach someone who may have been impacted to call 311. If outside New York City, please call 212-639-9675.

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