The police in New York on Tuesday evening identified a man they called a “person of interest” in the mass shooting on a crowded subway train in Brooklyn during the morning rush earlier that day that injured nearly two dozen people, five of them critically.
The police said that the man, Frank R. James, 62, had rented a U-Haul van in Philadelphia. A key to the van, they said, was found in a collection of belongings on the train that they believed belonged to the gunman, including a Glock 9-millimeter handgun, three ammunition magazines, a hatchet, fireworks and a liquid believed to be gasoline.
The police found the van abandoned on a street late Tuesday afternoon, about five blocks from the Kings Highway station, where they say the gunman had gotten on the subway, and five miles from the 36th Street station, where the shooting unfolded.
Mr. James remains at large, James Essig, the Police Department’s chief of detectives, said in a news conference at police headquarters.
“We are endeavoring to locate him to determine his connection to the subway shooting, if any,” Chief Essig said.
Mr. James has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, the police said.
He appeared to have posted dozens of videos on YouTube, where he riffed off news events in long, vitriolic rants. He blamed Black women for violence among Black people and pointed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as evidence that whites are genocidal.
Shortly before 8:30 a.m., the police said, a heavyset, dark-skinned man in a construction vest and helmet donned a gas mask as a crowded N train approached the 36th Street station in the Sunset Park neighborhood, tossed two smoke grenades on the floor of the car, and began firing the gun. Thirty-three shots later, he fled.
Ten people were hit by gunfire, the police said. Five of the victims were critically injured, but none of their wounds were life-threatening, the Fire Department said. The 10 gunshot victims made the shooting the worst in the history of the New York City subway. Another 13 people suffered injuries related to smoke inhalation, falls or panic attacks, Chief Essig said. The authorities are offering a $50,000 reward for the capture of the gunman.
The shooting came as the city was already struggling to cope with both a rise in shootings citywide and an increase in crime and disorder in the subway that has scared commuters from returning to a transit system that saw ridership plummet during the pandemic. It set off panic and chaos aboard the train, in the station and the surrounding streets and sent schools in the vicinity into lockdowns that lasted much of the day.
Mayor Eric Adams said that the search for the gunman was hampered by the fact that at least one security camera at the 36th Street subway station that might have captured the scene was not operating. There was a “malfunction with the camera system at that particular station,” Mr. Adams told WCBS 880 radio.
The U-Haul van was spotted in front of an apartment building on West Third Street just off the Kings Highway shopping strip in the Gravesend neighborhood shortly after 4:30 p.m., the authorities said. The address was five minutes’ walk from the Kings Highway station.
The U-Haul was found after a man who lives in the Highlawn, an apartment building on the street, called the police to report it. In an interview, the man said his superintendent had complained to him that morning about a van with Arizona plates blocking the driveway, preventing him from moving his car. The tenant said he later heard about the hunt for the van on the former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s radio show.
The N train snakes through working-class neighborhoods filled with immigrants from all over Asia and Latin America. As the shooting unfolded and the doors of the train opened, sending smoke billowing through 36th Street station, fearful riders fled, many of them hurrying onto an R train sitting across the platform. Subway seats and cars were streaked with blood as people called for help.
John Butsikares, 15, a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School, said his ride on a northbound R train from Bay Ridge had been calm — until the train approached 36th Street. When the doors opened, the conductor directed passengers on the platform to rush inside the R.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” he said. “There was just panic.”
Jose Echevarria, 50, an electrician headed to work in Manhattan, said he was about to switch from the R to the N when he saw smoke and gunshot flashes on the N and people running off it.
He said he grabbed one young man who had been shot in the leg and was bleeding profusely and helped him onto the R train. “He was so scared,” Mr. Echevarria said. The young man told Mr. Echevarria he had first seen the shooter at the New Utrecht Avenue station, four stops before 36th Street.
Around the 36th Street station, dozens of police vehicles with flashing lights clogged the streets and helicopters flew overhead.
“We saw an ambulance coming out with a stretcher with a person on it,” said Silvana Guerrero, 20, who works at nearby Sunset Bagels Cafe & Grill. “Their leg was injured — I’m not sure exactly what went on or what was going on. And then, we saw after that, two ambulances coming out, with two people, like, hopping on one leg.”
Reporting was contributed by Jonah E. Bromwich, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Joseph Goldstein, Andrew Hinderaker, Sadef Ali Kully, Ana Ley, Chelsia Rose Marcius William K. Rashbaum and Ashley Southall.