Alejandro Quintanos, 25, was still a little shaken up hours after the mass shooting at a New York City train station left at least 23 people injured.
Quintanos, a resident of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, told TIME that on Tuesday morning he was at a deli a block away from the 36th St. subway stop when commuters suddenly began running out of the station. Seeing smoke, he initially believed there was a fire—though he soon learned what the rest of the city and world did: that a gunman had thrown several smoke grenades onto a crowded train and opened fire.
Though he works locally in the area as a grocery-store clerk, Quintanos uses the stop regularly. “I could have been in that station,” he said.
Hours after the violence, which took place around 8:30 am, Quintanos was still watching the commotion, as the scene around the subway stop remained chaotic.
Sunset Park, which is home to substantial Asian and Hispanic populations, tends to see less crime than the borough and the city as a whole, per data from 2020. On Tuesday, however, police officers and other law enforcement officials in bulletproof vests walked the streets with purpose. NYPD vans were stationed at several corners. Media vans and reporters waited at the intersection near the train station, hoping for updates from law enforcement officials on the status of the investigation for the gunman.
Information trickled out through the day. The suspect was reportedly wearing an orange construction vest, a gas mask, construction gear and a backpack. A total of 10 people were shot, seven males and three females, according to officials. The other 13 people suffered injuries related to the incident, including from smoke inhalation, falling down, or a panic attack.
“None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening,” NYPD police commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a Tuesday evening press conference. “We know this incident is of grave concern to New Yorkers. We cannot lose sight of the victims in this city. We will use every resource we can to bring those to justice who continue to prey on the citizens of New York.”
But, Sewell said, while authorities have identified a person of interest in the violence, and while authorities found an empty van that was believed to have been driven by that person, the shooter is still at large.
On Wednesday morning, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that Frank James, 62, is now a suspect in the manhunt. Authorities say that James has been a resident of Pennsylvania and of Wisconsin, and he reportedly rented the van that was found near the scene in Philadelphia. There are also videos online that appear to show James being critical of Eric Adams and his policies on homelessness. Additional security has been added to the mayor’s security detail.
But on Tuesday, even as that continuing search dominated the thoughts of many in the neighborhood, locals who spoke to TIME—while shaken by the news and eager for more information—displayed a composure befitting stereotypes about unflappable New Yorkers.
Tory Cooper, 33, had just passed through the 36th St. station around 7 am, returning home to Sunset Park after working his overnight security shift. He woke to a barrage of calls and texts from family members who had seen the news, asking if he was okay. “It was crazy because you always think about something like this happening,” he said, sitting on his stoop later in the day, seeming to monitor his block. “But you never think it’ll actually happen.” From his home, the commotion of the scene could still be heard in the distance.
Cooper expressed concern about the gunman not yet being found—and what the potential impacts of the search might be for locals—and said he expects the police to ramp up their presence at various train stations as a response to the incident. But his attitude toward the day’s events was a relatively serene one.
“They’ll get him,” he said, of the suspect. “It’s only a matter of time.”
To Melanie Diggs, 38, another local resident, it was hard to get over the fact that the gunman had not been caught right away. “I just don’t understand how he got away. You always see police officers walking in the stations,” she said.
But even as she remained on high alert, she too was confident that it was only a matter of time.
“I’m a little concerned that they haven’t found him, but they should catch him,” she said. “Where could he have gone?”
The city’s mayor appeared to feel the same way—while acknowledging that the problem of gun violence would still loom, no matter when and whether the suspect was caught.
“This is not only a New York City problem. This rage, this violence, these guns, these relentless shooters are an American problem,” Adams said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It is going to take all levels of government to solve it.”
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