Commuter recalls riding NYC subway as shooting unfolded


NEW YORK (NewsNation) — Brooklyn’s 36th Street subway stop looked quite different Wednesday from just one day ago.

Tuesday morning, chaos unfolded during many people’s morning commute. Authorities say a gunman filled a subway car with smoke while opening fire on people trapped inside the moving train, striking 10 with bullets.

The unnerved riders poured out of the subway trains onto the platform, scrambling away from a train car turned into a living nightmare.

Witnesses to the attack are still experiencing the trauma of being among the dozens of people hurt. Kenneth Foote-Smith said he still hasn’t completely come to terms with what happened.

“It was unreal. It’s like almost a zombie flick with the way the man in that video is banging on that subway connector door to try and get our attention to open it and the way people’s faces are smushed against the glass of their subway connector doors as smoke filled up. And then just seeing that flood of people on the platform. It was so surreal. I still haven’t completely come to terms with it,” Foote-Smith said.

He’s still shaken but described to NewsNation the experience of riding on the train when shots rang out.

“We heard those three to four quick ‘pop, pop, pops’ at the signal stop. Everyone on that car knew what was happening and we could do nothing. So there’s about this 30 seconds of complete hopelessness, that all we could do is watch as these people fought for their lives and struggled and clawed at this door. As we pleaded with the conductor, please move this train, do anything, people are suffering, something’s happening,” Foote-Smith said.

For one reason or another, some lucky riders missed the terror on the train Tuesday. Some were running a little late, some working from home — for whatever reason, they were not among the victims.

“I was a few minutes late, so I just missed everything,” one commuter said.

Another added, “I was scared. I was on the train right before it. I had slept in that morning, so I was a little late. If I hadn’t slept in, I would have been there.”

Despite the shooting, most seem to feel the trains are as safe as they can be in a city as large as New York.

“They can’t eliminate all risks, you know,” one commuter said. “This is a big city and there are unfortunately a lot of people who don’t have good feelings towards our wonderful inclusive city.”

Police identified Frank James, 62, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the shooting suspect. A manhunt for James came to an end Wednesday when investigators say he called a tip line on himself and told authorities to come and get him at a McDonald’s restaurant. When officers arrived, James was not at the fast-food spot, but he was arrested shortly after on a busy corner nearby.

He is accused of conducting a violent attack on a mass transportation vehicle. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the charge, terrorist attacks or other violence against a mass transportation system, is in connection to the subway shooting. If convicted, James faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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