Back on 36th Street, police and firefighters descended on the station. They blocked entry and exit, unaware that the shooter was already gone. The casualties were quickly counted – 10 wounded by gunfire, none seriously. It was a welcome and unlikely outcome, as someone had just fired 33 shots into a sealed metal tube full of captured targets, then disappeared.
Mayor Eric Adams was uptown at his Gracie Mansion residence attending a Covid-19 briefing via Zoom when he learned of the shooting. He had tested positive for the coronavirus two days earlier and had been confined to home ever since.
A former New York City police captain, his first instinct was to run to the crime scene, but members of his staff insisted otherwise. Instead, a command center was set up in another room. Soon, he later said, he was in almost constant contact with Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
The news spread across the city and far beyond. Panicked parents are texting from across the country: The news said Brooklyn, are you okay? Helicopters took to the skies over Sunset Park, and the city sent alerts to smartphones asking people to avoid the neighborhood.
But the gunman appeared to have just walked away, uphill from Fourth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, where, one law enforcement officer said, he boarded a bus that took him the roughly 10 densely populated blocks to another subway station. At 9:15 a.m., he descended the stairs at that station, the 7th Avenue-9th Street stop in Park Slope, where an F or G train could take him to Coney Island or to Manhattan or Queens.
At the 36th Street station, the items the gunman had left turned out to be a treasure trove of clues. A stash of fireworks, a pistol, a container of gasoline, a flashlight – and bank cards and the key to a U-Haul van. The weapon was soon traced to a purchase a decade earlier in Ohio, sold to a man named Frank Robert James.