Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on April 12, 2022. Image Credit: AP

BROOKLYN, United States: A New York City shooter remains at large after 16 people were injured, including 10 people with gunshot wounds, during a chaotic Tuesday morning-rush-hour incident at a subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The incident is not being investigated as an act of terrorism but the police department said it wasn’t ruling it out. No motive is known yet and five people are in critical but stable condition. There are no known explosive devices on the subway, the NYPD said.

“This individual is still on the loose,” Governor Kathy Hochul said at a press briefing on Tuesday, breaking hours of silence from city and state leaders as they investigated the incident. “The NYPD, FDNY, state police, everyone involved in this has one purpose, and that’s to stop the insanity of these crimes.”

Hochul was joined at the press briefing by New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell and First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, who stood in for Mayor Eric Adams, who was isolating after a positive Covid test. Adams, in a Twitter post, called on New Yorkers to help by calling law enforcement with any information about the suspect.

Authorities initially responded to reports of smoke at about 8:30am at the 36th Street station, which serves the D, N and R lines. First responders encountered wounded commuters along with several undetonated devices, according to an FDNY spokesperson.

As an N train was pulling into the station, a suspect pulled on a gas mask and opened a gas canister on the train. Smoke filled the train and then he began to open fire, shooting numerous riders. The suspect is believed to be a short, heavy-set Black man who was wearing a green construction-type vest, Sewell said at the briefing.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was on the scene along with the FBI. An unidentified person can be heard saying that a fire had been set in the train car, and that he saw “at least eight people” shot.

Subway shooting
Law enforcement officers near the scene of the shooting. Image Credit: Reuters

According to NBC, citing NYPD and senior law enforcement officials, a man in a gas mask and orange construction vest may have tossed a smoke canister on the platform to distract the rush hour crowd.

The suspect was still at large, according to Manhattan borough president Mark Levine.

The city’s fire department gave a toll of “13 injuries at this time,” while ABC News quoted police sources as saying at least five people were shot in the incident.  The police department tweeted that there were “NO active explosive devices at this time.”

“Please stay clear of the area” the NYPD tweeted, urging witnesses to contact a police tip line with any information.

The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident and was in communication with New York officials.

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New York governor Kathy Hochul tweeted that first responders were on the scene and promised regular updates as the investigation unfolds.

Mass casualty shootings happen with relative frequency in the United States, where firearms are involved in approximately 40,000 deaths a year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.

Shootings in New York City have risen this year, and the uptick in violent gun crime has been a central focus for Mayor Eric Adams since he took office in January. Through April 3, shooting incidents rose to 296 from 260 during the same period last year, according to police statistics.

The incident came just a day after US President Joe Biden announced new gun control measures, increasing restrictions on so-called “ghost guns”, the difficult-to-trace weapons that can be assembled at home.

Lax gun laws and a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms have repeatedly stymied attempts to clamp down on the number of weapons in circulation, despite greater controls being favored by the majority of Americans.

Three-quarters of all homicides in the United States are committed with guns, and the number of pistols, revolvers and other firearms sold continues to rise.