Warning: there are graphic images in this story
SUNSET PARK — As the news unfolded about a subway attack Tuesday morning, Father Fulgencio Gutierrez, pastor of St. Michael’s Church, started to pray. His church is located just six blocks from where the shooting took place.
“I was doing a funeral and when it was over, we heard the sirens going down the street,” he said. “We didn’t know what was happening at first. It was frightening.”
St. Michael’s Church, at 352 42nd St., is located six blocks from D/N/R subway station at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue where authorities said a gunman apparently set off some type of smoke bomb and then shot at several people on an N train at approximately 8:24 a.m.
As of early afternoon Tuesday, the NYPD said at least 8 people were shot and 16 people were injured, including some victims who suffered smoke inhalation.
The suspect is described by authorities as a black man, 5 foot 5, with a heavy build and wearing an orange construction vest and a gray sweatshirt.
At a press conference, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the incident took place as the N train was pulling into the 36th Street station at 8:24 a.m. The gunman put on a gas mask, released a canister of smoke and opened fire.
The security cameras in the station were not working at the time of the shooting, meaning that there were no cameras that captured images of the suspect, authorities said.
As of late Tuesday morning, Father Gutierrez said he had not heard of any injuries to any of his parishioners, but he said he was monitoring the situation. “I am praying for everyone,” he said.
In the wake of the incident, Bishop Robert Brennan rushed to the 72nd Police Precinct in Sunset Park to speak to law enforcement officials and offer counseling, according to Adriana Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Msgr. Robert Romano and Msgr. David Cassato, who are NYPD chaplains, accompanied the bishop.
“On this Tuesday of Holy Week, our city has suffered a terrible attack on New Yorkers just trying to commute,” the bishop said in a statement. “Let us fervently pray for the multiple people shot and injured in a Sunset Park subway station. Lord, help the healing hands take care of the victims and protect the law enforcement officers trying to locate the suspect in this shooting. We are grateful for their courage and service to protect us. And please, Lord, keep us all safe in your embrace.”
Following the precinct visit, Bishop Brennan intended to go to St. Michael’s Church, according to a person accompanying him.
Over at St. Michael’s Church, Father Gutierrez canceled all of his in-person appointments for the day and said he was considering locking the rectory doors because the suspect was still on the loose.
“We’re all a little scared,” he added.
This story will be updated.