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Recent Brooklyn Subway Shooting Causes Panic for Commuter Students


An exit from the DeKalb Avenue train station leading to Fulton Street. (Photo: Melissa Fishman)

On April 12, the nation watched as a statewide manhunt gripped New York City, in the search for a suspect who set off smoke bombs on a crowded N train and then began shooting.

The incident, which left 23 people injured, occured in the early hours of the morning transit rush as people clamored onto the subway to go to work.

The suspect was later identified as 62-year-old Frank R. James who was arrested after more than 24 hours on the loose. James was located in the East Village on the afternoon of April 13 after he called a police tip line, giving up his position at a McDonald’s restaurant, and awaited the arrival of police without incident or resistance.

It was later revealed that James had come heavily armed to the train station that day as a “Glock 9-millimeter handgun, three ammunition magazines, a hatchet, fireworks and a liquid believed to be gasoline” were found among his belongings at the scene as reported by the New York Times.

Once in police custody, law enforcement discovered that James had posted numerous tirades on YouTube discussing a serious lust for blood and a concerning desire to “watch people die.” The videos are chilling to watch and describe James’ ultimate goal to cause mass carnage in New York.

Incoming Student Government Association (SGA) President, Shivani Vaidya, noticed first-hand the toll that the shooting had on commuter students, saying that many of her classes were “empty” in the days immediately following the shooting.

Prior to her recent victory in the SGA election polls, Vaidya took to Instagram to answer the question that prospective voters had on her election platform. One anonymous person inquired about what resources would be added to our campus in order to increase safety.

In response, she gave a detailed three-pronged approach to campus safety, proposing the installment of new emergency safety stations, the distribution of self defense tools, and the creation of a Student Safety Patrol.

Regarding the latter, Vaidya said that the Patrol would create, “a system where students have the opportunity to call [the] Student Safety Patrol to walk with them to and from the subway.”

A large majority of the commuter student population at LIU depend on the subway to get them to and from class. The shooting, having taken place on a weekday morning, left some students more than concerned.

LIU junior, Michael Petrillo, was on the train the morning of April 12 and told Seawanhaka, “I was on the D train that was directly behind the N train that was shot at, I believe the shooting happened at 8:30 a.m. I was at 36 St. at 8:37 a.m. I believe I saw a man on the ground injured. We were told there was smoke and to close the windows. At first they asked to evacuate. I stayed on the train, then quickly sped away to Atlantic Avenue”

Similarly, junior Tyler Durant also frequently uses the subway to get to class, and has done so for the past three years.

While Durant lives in Astoria and wasn’t on the subway that morning, he did express that he doesn't feel safe on the subway. Durant, like many other students at LIU Brooklyn, has experienced violence near campus .

“The shooting happened on the same line that I take but luckily I live on the other side and was not on the train at that time.” Durant said.

In a survey taken by Seawanhaka in November of 2021, 78% of students who participated said they did not know the protocols put in place by Public Safety. Since the publication of the survey and article regarding campus safety, the LIU Brooklyn website has updated the public safety page.

On the public safety page, there is a link for LIU faculty and students to sign up for LIU Emergency InfoAlert System. While LIU’s emergency alert system has been used in the past for safety updates on campus, there was no message sent for the duration of the shooting on April 12.

While it is unclear why LIU did not issue a statement, here is a statement put forth by neighboring school, St. Francis College.

“We are shocked and saddened by the tragic shooting that took place earlier today at the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. Since the incident occurred this morning, we have been monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the 84th Precinct. The St. Francis College community hails from all reaches of New York City, including the area of today's shooting…We are grateful that the College community remains safe. Out of an abundance of caution, all classes and administrative offices will operate remotely tomorrow, Wed. April 13th…”

As made clear by the statement, St. Francis canceled the remainder of their in-person classes. St. Francis also has an emergency alert system in place, the Back to Brooklyn Task Force.

On the day of the shooting, students received the following message from the alert system, “You may now be aware of the news of happenings in the subway in Brooklyn with police and fire department activity and significant delays and cancellations on several lines. We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the 84th Precinct. Please be advised that until this situation is resolved, we will not be allowing visitors to the campus. Anyone who is already on campus is encouraged to stay on campus at this time until the situation is resolved. If you have not begun your commute, we encourage you to stay where you are. Faculty should be advised to hold Tuesday classes remotely or provide an alternate assignment in lieu of in- person class time. Any students unable to attend classes today should be excused. Everyone should exercise caution when using the subway and we will continue to relay further information as it becomes available.”

When asked for some words of encouragement to commuter students, Shivani Vaidya offered this, “at the end of the day, commuters are still students and that should be the only thing they have to worry about, not the safety of their travel to the University.”

If you are concerned about riding on the subway, here are some tips to help protect yourself, provided by the MTA:

  • During non-rush hours, wait for trains in designated areas.

  • Avoid empty subway cars.

  • During off-hours on the subway, ride in the conductor car. That’s in the middle of the train.

  • Use subway entrances and exits where there’s the most activity. That’s usually the entrance with the 24-hour booth (though not all stations have these).

  • If it’s an emergency that requires immediate response, call 911.

  • If you are a victim of sexual assault or harassment, call the NYPD Transit Special Victims Squad at 718-834-5319

In order to contact Public Safety at LIU for any concerns you may have, please use the following number: (718)-488-1078

A damaged virtual sign found at the DeKalb Avenue station. (Photo: Melissa Fishman)

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