When a lone gunman fired a single shot into Daniel Enriquez’s chest on Sunday afternoon, the crime scene — the claustrophobic interior of the last car on a Q train — hung suspended for an agonizing stretch of seconds on the Manhattan Bridge. Passengers huddled for safety, and Mr. Enriquez collapsed.
Then, as the northbound train pulled into Canal Street, the gunman vanished into the anonymous bustle of the station.
It was the second time in as many months that a gunman had opened fire in a subway car, walked off the train and disappeared without being confronted. Sunday’s shooting came just six weeks after Frank R. James had started shooting in a crowded rush-hour subway car in Brooklyn, injuring at least 23.
The Police Department released two photos of the Q train suspect on Monday. “We need all eyes on this,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell wrote on Twitter.
Investigators were seeking Andrew Abdullah, 25, whose last known address was in Manhattan, in connection with the killing, according to two law enforcement officials. It was not clear if he was the man pictured in the photos released by the police.
That such a crime could occur, and that the gunman could so easily escape, defies the efforts of city and law enforcement officials, who have promised for months that a flood of resources and officers would inundate the transit system. High-profile enforcement against low-level offenses has followed — a woman has been wrestled to the ground for evading fares, and a mother selling mangoes has been arrested. But surprise attacks have been impossible to prevent.
“You don’t assume you’re just going to have a very random shooter on the subway,” said Jillian Snider, a retired New York City police officer and policy director for R Street Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. “If I was undercover riding the subway, there’s no way I could’ve stopped that from happening.”
The transit system is blanketed in surveillance and security cameras, and those in the Canal Street station were operating properly Sunday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Monday.
“M.T.A. video obtained from the Canal Street station is providing our detectives with important information and images shown of a possible suspect,” Chief Jason Wilcox, the head of the Police Department’s transit bureau, told agency board members Monday.
But the city has struggled to adapt camera systems to individual cars, given the challenges of using modern mobile technology in tunnels and stations.
“It’s a physical challenge to get them deep into that system. It’s been a challenge to get radios that work properly,” said Joseph Fox, who retired as the chief of the Police Department’s transit bureau in 2018. “It’s a difficult environment. It’s deep underground.”
On Sunday, there were no police officers on the train where the shooting occurred, police officials say. They had been at the station earlier in the morning but answered a call to another station.
The police were summoned by a fellow passenger’s 911 call while the car was still on the bridge. When the train doors opened at the Canal Street platform, the gunman fled just as officers descended into the station. The suspect gave the gun to a homeless man outside the station on his way out, the two law enforcement officials said. A 9-millimeter handgun was later recovered by the police on scaffolding nearby.
Mr. Enriquez was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where he died.
Mr. Enriquez, 48, a native New Yorker who had been on his way to brunch, rarely traveled on the subway, first because of the pandemic and later because of concerns about the system’s safety, said his longtime partner, Adam Pollack. He was one of many New Yorkers who have avoided the system since March 2020, both because of remote work and safety concerns: Ridership is only about 60 percent as high as before the pandemic.
A researcher with the Goldman Sachs investment bank, Mr. Enriquez often preferred to take Ubers into Manhattan from his Park Slope home, Mr. Pollack said. He had only recently begun taking the train on weekends because surge pricing was so high, Mr. Pollack said.
When asked to talk about Mr. Enriquez, Mr. Pollack looked down, shook his head, and said that he was grieving.
The eldest of five children, Mr. Enriquez was a beloved uncle, known for taking nieces and nephews for ice cream and out to amusement parks when he visited. He could speak several languages and had once embarked on a genealogy project tracing 500 years’ worth of his family’s history in Mexico.
“He was a special, jovial guy,” Mr. Enriquez’s sister, Griselda Vile, said of him. “He’s definitely one of a kind.”
He was on his way to meet his younger brother for brunch on Sunday morning, said another sister, Ruth Enriquez de Tiburcio.
Mr. Enriquez boarded the Q train and was over the East River about 11:40 a.m. when a fellow passenger, who described a man pacing up and down the last car of the train, said he heard a sound like a firecracker. The pacing man had suddenly pulled out a firearm and had shot Mr. Enriquez. There had been no previous interaction between the men, the police said.
The photos of the suspect that Commissioner Sewell released on Twitter show a man wearing a blue surgical mask, a blue hooded sweatshirt, light-colored pants and white sneakers walking up what appear to be subway stairs.
She wrote that detectives needed help with “identifying & locating this man who is wanted for homicide in the tragic, senseless shooting.”
Mr. Abdullah, the man investigators are seeking, was charged by Manhattan prosecutors in an 83-count indictment against him and members of the Harlem-based gangs Fast Money and Nine Block in 2017, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and other charges the following year and was sentenced in 2019 to a prison term. State Department of Corrections records show he was paroled later that year.
In January 2020, Mr. Abdullah faced new gun charges, according to court records, a case that is pending. In March 2021, Manhattan prosecutors charged him with assault and endangering the welfare of a child. That case is also continuing. And in April, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office charged Mr. Abdullah with stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The attack was the latest in a string of violent episodes in subways this year, including Mr. James’s rampage and the January death of Michelle Go, who was shoved onto the tracks in Times Square station.
Such incidents have been a major political challenge for Mayor Eric Adams, who has repeatedly vowed to curb violence on New York City streets and trains and to revive the city after the pandemic.
“The call is to come back to work, and the subway system being safe is a major driver to doing that,” Mr. Adams told reporters Monday morning. “When you have an incident like this, it sends a chilling impact.”
On Monday morning at the Canal Street station, some commuters conveyed deep concern over their safety.
“It’s real scary out there,” said Dominique Lachelle, as she waited for a Q train on the uptown platform where the police had tried in vain to resuscitate Mr. Enriquez.
Ms. Lachelle, 29, who lives in Brooklyn and is a front desk associate at a hospital, said the spate of violent incidents has influenced even the smallest of her decisions, like whether she sits down on her ride to work.
“I stand up now, and I go and stand close to the doors so I can escape to another car if I need to,” she added. “I don’t want to be caught in the middle.”
Mr. Enriquez is the fourth person this year to be killed in the transit system. Despite the spotlight on recent violence, fatal attacks on public transit are far less common than on city streets. Major felony crime on buses and trains makes up just 2 percent of overall city crime — the same level as before the pandemic — though ridership is only about 60 percent of what it was.
Mr. Adams called for more intense patrolling and also for technology to detect people carrying guns in the subway. And he said his experience as a police officer gave him a unique sensitivity to the anguish of Mr. Enriquez’s family and New York at large.
“I understand their pain, and I have to make sure this city is safe,” he said. “And I want that obligation. I thank God I’m the mayor right now and not those that don’t understand the urgency of this moment.”
Reporting was contributed by Lananh Nguyen, Ashley Wong, Ana Ley, Ashley Southall and Jeffery C. Mays.
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