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NYPD releases information about a person of interest in a subway shooting

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Police in New York City do not yet have a suspect in custody in yesterday's subway shooting in Brooklyn, but they have identified someone they say is a person of interest in the attack that wounded 23 people. They also released more details about the chaotic scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUBWAY CAR PASSING, PEOPLE SCREAMING)

FADEL: That is sound captured on a camera phone of people fleeing a smoke-filled train at a station where investigators say they also found a gun, fireworks and fuses. Joining us now is Caroline Lewis of member station WNYC to - on the latest. Good morning, Caroline.

CAROLINE LEWIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So, Caroline, the police identified a person of interest. What do we know about him?

LEWIS: Right. So his name is Frank R. James. He's a 62-year-old man with addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia. And they said they found a key at the subway station to a U-Haul van. And records show that he actually rented the van in Philadelphia. They were careful last night, as you said, not to call him a suspect, but they definitely want to talk to him.

FADEL: Police also talked about how the shooting unfolded. What were they able to put together from video and witnesses on the scene?

LEWIS: So all of this took place during rush hour as the train was pulling into a station in Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Apparently, a man wearing a neon green construction vest and hat and a gas mask opened up two smoke grenades. And then, police said, he pulled out a gun and started shooting - 33 shots in all. There's footage showing smoke pouring out of the train as soon as the doors opened when it entered the station. And people rushed onto the platform. People were screaming. CNN spoke to a survivor of the attack, Hourari Benkada, who was helping a pregnant woman when he was shot in the leg.

There was clearly a lot of confusion. Police said the items they later recovered at the station included two empty gas canisters, a hatchet, gasoline and a 9 mm semi-automatic Glock. They say they don't have a motive so far.

FADEL: What do we know at this point about the victims?

LEWIS: So this has been developing, but hospitals identified at least 29 people who were treated for injuries. And officials said there were at least 23 people who are injured, 10 people from gunfire, and others who were either injured by smoke inhalation or just in a rush to get out of the station. Five of the victims were listed in critical but stable condition. And officials who spoke last night said it could have been much worse and were grateful that the victims were all expected to recover.

FADEL: So what's the mood like in the city right now, especially for those who depend on the train for transportation?

LEWIS: There has been an increase in crime recently and subway crime specifically. So I think some people were already a little on edge. And this definitely didn't help. I talked to some people who lived near the station who said they had near-misses with this incident yesterday that left them really rattled. Some people said they're nervous about taking the train now but don't really have a choice because it's the most affordable option.

FADEL: That's Caroline Lewis with member station WNYC. Caroline, thank you for your reporting.

LEWIS: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Caroline Lewis