As the Q train rumbled across the East River on a sunny Sunday morning, with a view of the Lower Manhattan skyline shimmering through the windows, a man paced up and down the aisle of the last car.
Dmitry Glivinskiy, a vocal coach who was sitting at the back of the car with headphones on, heard what he thought was a firecracker going off. He looked up and saw the man standing in the middle of the car, holding a gun.
The gunman had fired one shot — without provocation — striking a 48-year-old man in the chest and killing him, the police later said.
As other passengers scrambled to the ends of the car and huddled together, Mr. Glivinskiy, 34, called 911.
“At that point, you’re just kind of stuck,” he said on Sunday afternoon. “You don’t know what you’re supposed to do. And you hope for the best.”
When the train pulled into Canal Street, the gunman fled just as police flooded the station, responding to the latest in a series of highly visible, random attacks in the subway that have shaken New York City’s confidence in the system vital to its life and its economy.
The violent episodes present an enormous obstacle for Mayor Eric Adams, who faces an increasingly impatient public as he struggles to rein in violence on the streets and subways to fulfill the central promise of his campaign.
He has sought to reassure riders by removing homeless people living in the subway and placing hundreds of additional police officers in the system.
Murders are rare on the city’s buses and subways. Three people have been killed in the transit system this year, compared with four at this time last year, according to the most recent police statistics. And major felony crime on buses and subways represents just 2 percent of overall city crime, the same level as before the pandemic, though ridership is 40 percent lower.
The mayor, who has been urging New Yorkers to return to public transit and to offices to revive the city’s economy, lamented the “horrific” crime on Sunday and vowed that the gunman would be caught. He said his administration would continue to boost police presence in the subways. “What the goal is, and what we’re going to continue to do, is the omnipresence of police officers,” he said.
The victim of Sunday’s attack, whose name the police have not released, was shot in the chest around 11:40 a.m. as the train made its way from Downtown Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, according to the Police Department.
At a news conference inside the Canal Street station, Kenneth Corey, the chief of department, said there was no interaction between the victim and his attacker before the shooting.
“According to witnesses, the suspect was walking back and forth in the same train car and, without provocation, pulled out a gun and fired it at the victim at close range as the train was crossing the Manhattan Bridge,” Chief Corey said.
Police officers and emergency medical technicians tried to resuscitate the victim after the train pulled into the Canal Street station, but he died at Bellevue Hospital, the police said. No one else was injured, according to Chief Corey.
The assailant fled up to the street and has not been caught, the police said. He was described as a dark-skinned man, heavyset with a beard, wearing a dark sweatshirt, an orange T-shirt, gray sweatpants and white sneakers.
Chief Corey said investigators were reviewing video footage from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s surveillance cameras. He asked for the public’s help in finding the gunman.
The shooting occurred a little less than six weeks after the N train attack in Brooklyn, in which 10 people were shot and at least 13 others injured — but none killed — in the worst subway attack in decades. Frank R. James, 62, was arrested on a federal terrorism charge after leading the authorities on a 30-hour manhunt.
In January, Michelle Go, 40, was pushed in front of a train and killed in an attack she never saw coming. The suspect, Simon Martial, was mentally ill and homeless and has been deemed unfit to stand trial.
After the shooting on Sunday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Twitter that her office was working with the transit authority and had offered help to the police during the investigation.
“My heart breaks for the victim’s family,” she said. “Everyone deserves to feel safe on our subways. “I’ll keep fighting to make that a reality.”
On Sunday afternoon, the train on which the shooting occurred was still stopped in the Canal Street station. Three uniformed police officers were guarding the last car, which was partitioned with yellow police tape strung between handrails.
K. Arsenault Rivera, 30, an author, said she was on the train, headed to Penn Station, where she planned to transfer on her way to a friend’s baby shower in New Jersey.
When the train pulled into Canal Street, she said tension was in the air. She realized something was wrong when people started filing off the train. Rumors of a gun sighting reached her car as people stood in the doorway filming with their phones.
Then, a man came running from the back of the train with his fingers to his temple, she said. He said that someone had been shot in the last car and urged his fellow passengers to leave the train.
Police officers soon came running down the stairs, yelling for passengers to get away from the train, Ms. Arsenault Rivera said, and she “booked it” up the steps and took a cab home.
“It’s pretty harrowing stuff,” she said. “If I’d gotten on at a different point, I would have been right there.”
Matthew Chavan, 32, of Brooklyn, said he was on the train headed to brunch with a companion. He was seated in the third car from the front of the train when he noticed that people getting off the train at Canal Street suddenly stopped. There was yelling, and people started running toward the exits, he said.
The car he was in started to clear out, and he and his companion ran up to the street.
“We were asked what was going on, and my response was, People don’t run for no reason,” he said.
Mr. Chavan blamed the erosion in safety on the focus on police tactics that he feels have failed to stem the tide of violence. He said he fears what will happen when the Supreme Court rules on a case challenging New York’s law limiting who can carry guns in public. Guns rights activists challenging the law, one of the strictest in the country, have argued that it infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Mr. Chavan shares the fears of many elected Democrats in the city who predict that a Supreme Court decision to overturn the law would lead to worse gun violence.
Around the Canal Street Station on Sunday afternoon, New Yorkers who learned they could not ride the Q line because of the shooting reacted with slumping shoulders, head-shakes and gasps.
Yanni Reed, who works in radio promotion, was turned away from her usual subway entrance by police tape and an officer. She said the news made her “paranoid” to ride the subway.
“Wow, another shooting, this is crazy,” she said. “This is too much — we can’t be numb to this.”
Marcello Leone, 65, a barista in Little Italy, said the news has made him more committed to staying alert on the subway.
“Keep your eyes open, don’t sleep,” he said.
Nate Schweber contributed reporting.
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