subway shooting

Smoke Bombs Used in Other Mass Shootings

NBC Universal, Inc.

The gunman who shot multiple people in a New York City subway car Tuesday morning set off a smoke canister in the train as he began shooting, according to authorities.

At least 10 people were shot on the subway as it approached the 36th Street and Fourth Avenue station in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn around 8:30 a.m. Five people were critically wounded. Another 19 or so were hurt in the chaos aboard the N train.

A gun was recovered at the scene, as was a bag with more smoke canisters and fireworks, sources and officials said.

We don’t know anything yet about a potential motive for this attack but the gun and the other items found at the scene indicated this was premeditated.

Investigators said they are hoping to find fingerprints or other clues that could lead them to a suspect.

Witnesses said the suspect put on a gas mask before setting off that smoke bomb and opening fire on the passengers.

Video of the scene showed smoke coming from the subway car as the doors opened and people tried to get out of the station. Some were treated for smoke inhalation. 

NBC New York spoke with a woman soon after she got off the subway car. 

“I was coming off the train and I saw a lot of smoke and I smelled it, it was a really strong smell it was nothing like fire it was a lot different than what the smell of fire is,” she said.

The suspect managed to get away during the chaos.

We have seen mass shooters use similar tactics before.

In 2018, a gunman threw a smoke bomb into a crowd at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California before opening fire, killing 12.

In 2012, a shooter set off a canister of tear gas inside an Aurora, Colorado movie theater during his attack. Twelve people were killed and more than 70 injured in that shooting.

NBC Connecticut spoke with Kenneth Gray, a former FBI agent who now teaches at the University of New Haven, who says smoke bombs heighten the fear and confusion and create a distraction.

“It is a great diversionary tactic.  So you set off the smoke bomb, people aren’t sure exactly what causes it, you can’t see very well what’s going on. And it also causes people to have a choking sensation in some cases," Gray said.

He said don’t jump to conclusions about the use of a smoke bomb.

“We don’t know at this point that the smoke bomb was detonated on purpose at that particular time or if it accidentally detonated,” Gray said.

We also know that back in January New York City police deployed more officers throughout the entire transit system – with a focus on subway cars. The department said officers would engage with riders and document everything they saw.

Contact Us