Witnesses near the site of Tuesday’s shooting described scenes of confusion and panic as the police and the sound of emergency sirens broke through what started off as a calm morning.
Dozens of police cars filled the streets along Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, blocking off traffic as residents huddled behind police tape and helicopters circled overhead.
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 just after 8:30 a.m.
The train doors were flung open, he said, and the conductor told passengers waiting on the platform to rush inside.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” he said. “There was just panic, and everyone started to get crowded onto the R train.”
The packed train quickly left the station and headed to 25th Street, where officers instructed passengers to evacuate and leave the station.
“I was just scared,” he said.
He said he had only just started taking the train by himself last fall. Before Tuesday, he had never questioned the trips.
“People have told me, ‘Be careful on the train,’ but I’ve never actually experienced it until now,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe on the train again, I don’t know.”
Patrick Berry, 41, said he entered the 25th Street station with his 3-year-old daughter around 8:25 a.m. But when they got on the subway a few minutes later, the train didn’t move.
“Suddenly, from the front of the train, I heard people screaming, ‘Run, run, run! Go, go, go!’ And then all these people came sprinting past our car, and I just felt like, ‘Oh my god, this is a stampede,’” Mr. Berry said.
He grabbed his daughter, lifted her up and ran, trying to stay ahead of the rushing crowd even as people around him tumbled to the ground.
Silvana Guerrero was working behind the counter at Sunset Bagels Cafe and Grill, near the subway station where the shooting happened, when police officers came in and asked the staff to close. She and her colleagues watched several injured people being carried off the scene.
“We saw an ambulance coming out with a stretcher with a person on it,” Ms. Guerrero said. “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.”
James Lee, 33, a worker at T&D Auto Repair on Fourth Avenue, was inside the shop’s garage area just blocks away from the 36th Street station when police officers started filling the street.
“I didn’t know the neighborhood that well, but until this happened I thought it was fine,” said Mr. Lee, who started his job at the store about two months ago.
Several of his co-workers regularly take the train to work each morning without incident, he said. But Mr. Lee said reports of attacks across the city, along with the violence that other Asian Americans in the city have experienced throughout the coronavirus pandemic, have left him fearful.
He now drives to work each day, he said, adding that he had become more cautious about traveling on the streets late at night.
“I have my guard up whenever I’m walking through the neighborhood,” he said.
Dee, a business owner on Fourth Avenue who declined to give her last name, said she had just started turning on the lights in her store when police sirens started blaring.
She said she has felt increasingly unsafe in Brooklyn and avoids public transit whenever she can. The only thing keeping her in the neighborhood was her store and her customers, she said.
“I don’t get on the train at all,” said Dee. “There’s so many things happening in the stations.”
Troy Closson, Ana Ley and Chelsia Rose Marcius contributed reporting.