New York Citizens Like Zack Did What The NYPD Couldn’t
I, like many other people living in New York City, woke up Tuesday morning to a phone screen filled with worried texts from friends and family. Through groggy attempts to assure them that I was safe and alright, I slowly learned that there had been a mass shooting on a subway train in Sunset Park. Over the next day, the shooter remained at large, while those New Yorkers who could afford to take Ubers or taxis did so, and those who couldn’t rode the subway still, fearing the skitter of an improvised smoke bomb along the floor of their car. It seemed that those who didn’t live in New York were the quickest to cry out against a lacking police presence that they believed let this happen. Social media was filled with non-residents calling for increased patrols and cops on subway cars.
I, along with others who live in the city, found those claims to be hollow, because if you live here, you know that there is no lack of police presence on the New York subway. Only recently, in fact, it was increased as part of a push under new Mayor Eric Adams' watch. We found out, in the grimmest circumstance, both the shortcomings of this performative money pit, and, in the only bright moment, a reminder of the humanity that New Yorkers hold for each other, no matter how slow somebody is on the stairs.
Police are omnipresent on the subway, especially recently, though maybe less so when it comes to low-income and less central neighborhoods like Sunset Park. When the worst case scenario unfolded, the facade of control was shown for what it was. The heroes that emerged weren’t dressed in uniform. Some train riders attempted to subdue the man at risk of their own life and limb, but failed, the terror only ending after what seems to have been a fortuitous malfunction on the shooter’s automatic weapon, fitted with extended magazines.
When the train finally arrived and the chaos spilled onto the platform, commuting doctors and medical professionals dropped to the bloodied platform to treat those who were injured, applying makeshift tourniquets. MTA employees and train conductors quickly ushered those able to flee onto a waiting train to carry them away from the danger. The NYPD mashed away on radios, attempting to call out for help… on the wrong frequency. Ultimately, officers had to ask civilians to call 911 on their own personal cell phones.
The security cameras installed to surveil the population inside the stations were found to have malfunctioned, transmitting or recording no video to be reviewed. After another civilian call brought police to an abandoned U-Haul, the plates were traced to the man ultimately apprehended. He was confirmed as a suspect when his name was found to be recorded as the owner of the gun found at the scene.
Even as pictures of the man circulated, what we’re to view as a powerful web of trained enforcement agents failed to find any trace of the man, even as they continued the good work of sweeping homeless encampments. The search continued into the following day, until finally, the city received the relieving news that he’d been apprehended. How was he found? Was it the systematic, well-executed result of a city-wide dragnet? The result of police helicopters uselessly poring over ant-sized pedestrians while burning away city budget?
No, it was a Syrian immigrant named Zack. Though there are both reports of him working as a security camera installer and as the proprietor/employee of a bodega store, he is very much a regular citizen, who spotted the man, let out the perfect reaction of “oh s**t, it’s that guy”, and informed the police both over the phone and via flagging down nearby patrolling officers.
The NYPD seems to be distributing reports that the man called in his own location at a nearby McDonald’s, which was found to be empty, and then was picked up by officers searching the nearby area. However, the wealth of information provided by a perpetually camera-equipped population doesn’t seem to be at all confused about the heroics of Zack, shown answering questions and then being slapped on the back and escorted into a police car. The conflicting report of cops acting on their own volition, then, could be chalked up to miscommunication in chaos at best, or a grab for glory and discrediting of a selfless citizen at worst.
With the suspect in custody, and the city breathing a sigh of relief, Eric Adams took the podium to beat his chest, exclaiming “We got him.” We did get him, Mayor Adams. By all current information available, you and your generously budgeted police force did not.