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Prosecutors say New York subway shooting may have been self defense

NEW YORK (AP) — A man who shot and critically wounded another passenger on a New York City subway train may have acted in self-defense and will not immediately be charged with any crime, prosecutors said Friday.

“Yesterday’s shooting inside a crowded subway car was shocking and deeply upsetting. The investigation into this tragic incident is ongoing but, at this stage, evidence of self-defense precludes us from filing any criminal charges against the shooter,” said Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

The shooting during Thursday's rush hour came a week after Gov. Kathy Hochul sent the National Guard into the subway system to help police search people for weapons, citing a need to make people feel safer after a series of headline-making crimes in recent months.

Video taken by a bystander and posted on social media showed a confrontation that began with one passenger berating another and repeatedly threatening to beat him up. The two men squared off and fought before they were separated by another rider.

Then the belligerent rider who had started the confrontation pulled a gun from his jacket and cocked it. Passengers fled and cowered at the far end of the car, some screaming, “Stop! Stop!” The shooting isn't seen, but gunshots can be heard as passengers flee from the train as it arrives at a station.

Police said that the 36-year-old man who had pulled the gun lost control of it during the altercation. The other man, 32, got possession and shot him.

The man who was shot was hospitalized in critical condition. Police have not identified either man.

Michael Kemper, the Police Department’s chief of transit, said at a briefing late Thursday that witnesses had reported that the man who was shot was being “aggressive and provocative."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former transit police officer, said he believes the man who was shot was suffering from “mental health illness.”

“When you look at that video, you’ll see the nexus between someone who appears, from what I saw, to be dealing with severe mental health illness, sparking a dispute on our subway system,” Adams said on radio station 77 WABC.

Adams urged state lawmakers to give New York City more authority to remove mentally ill people from the streets and the subway system involuntarily.

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said at a briefing Friday that the man who was shot had entered through an open emergency door without paying the $2.90 subway fare and suggested that the shooting highlights the need to crack down on fare evasion.

“It is important that the NYPD enforces quality of life,” Maddrey said. “It’s important that we enforce that service and people who are not paying the fare, oftentimes we see people enter the subway station looking to cause harm and they never pay the fare."

Violence in the New York City subway system is rare, but serious incidents such as a passenger’s slashing of a subway conductor in the neck last month, and a shooting on a Bronx subway platform, have attracted attention.