Fleeing riders forced to exit single-file at nearby Brooklyn station after subway shooting, rider says

A crowd of terrified passengers struggled to flee while exiting a train at the Fulton Street station after the shots were fired in last week’s shooting at the nearby Brooklyn’s Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway stop, multiple riders told Gothamist on Sunday.

An altercation at the busy station during rush hour on Thursday resulted in one passenger being shot in the head with his own gun on a northbound A train. One commuter, whose G train had left the station in the midst of the chaos, told Gothamist on Sunday that straphangers were stampeding toward the exits after their train stopped one station away at Fulton Street. They stood helplessly, she said, as they tried opening a nearby gate that would not budge.

Tim Minton, a spokesperson for the MTA, told Gothamist the agency does not lock emergency exit gates and the agency “has no report of any such issue.” The agency will be reviewing surveillance footage from the Fulton Street station, however, to see what transpired, he said.

The victim of the shooting – a 36-year-old man who MTA officials later identified as the “aggressor” in the altercation – remains in critical but stable condition. The same man is seen in NYPD surveillance footage avoiding the $2.90 fare by entering the Nostrand Avenue station through an emergency exit door before the shooting on Thursday.

“I just don’t know why the door would be locked,” said Joyce Bullock-Vigdor, who was aboard the G train stopping at Fulton Street. “Because it could’ve turned out so much worse if it was a bigger emergency.”

It began as an otherwise standard commute from work for Bullock-Vigdor, a 32-year-old elementary school teacher in downtown Brooklyn. A ride on the A/C train at Jay Street Station placed her at Hoyt-Schermerhorn around 4:40 p.m., where she planned to transfer.

The sound of the G train’s arrival occurred at the same time that Bullock-Vigdor heard a pop.

“At first, I didn’t realize what it was,” she told Gothamist. “I thought maybe the train had run over something or backfired. I wasn’t sure. But as I step into the train, I hear another three bangs – and that’s when I realize that they were gunshots.”

The realization sent a hoard of passengers into the G train, she said. The train’s doors struggled to close as more frantic commuters piled into the carts in an attempt to escape the gunfire, Bullock-Vigdor said. Passengers began screaming at the conductor to finally shut the doors, she told Gothamist.

Following a tense ride to the next stop – Fulton Street – panicked passengers rushed outside of the train and to the nearest exit around 4:50 p.m. The crowd of passengers reached a single floor-to-ceiling, full-length turnstile – different from the typical waist-height turnstiles – and struggled to exit as the crowd grew larger.

Bullock-Vigdor recalled being pressed against the metal bars by those behind her as a pregnant woman beside her struggled to breathe and fellow passengers began screaming.

All the while, the gate next to the turnstile would not budge. She said there were hundreds of people all attempting to leave through the same single-person entryway at once.

“People are screaming ‘One at a time! Go through the gate!’ and others are screaming ‘Can you open the door?’” Bullock-Vigdor said in a phone interview. “And someone near the door was trying [to open the door] and it wouldn’t open. I’m not sure if it was because it was locked or if it opened inwards towards the crowd, but it wasn’t opening.”

Bullock-Vigdor eventually made it above ground around 4:55 p.m, where the authorities told her and others that the shooter was still at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station, she said. She did not want to consider how worse things could have been had a shooter been there during the pandemonium of trying to flee the station.

“If there was an active shooter, a bigger emergency than it could’ve been – a lot worse than it was,” she said.

Another rider, Brendan Jay Sullivan, told Gothamist that he had been at the Fulton Street station at the same time that passengers exited the G train en masse. He shared a photo of the lone turnstile – and detailed the ordeal – on social media.

“Everybody was freaking out because it’s a very narrow hallway, it’s the only escape,” he said. “I’m gonna say that 80% of the people had no idea what was going on, all that happened was that they heard gunshots coming from somewhere.”

Amid the chaos, he saw people calling their loved ones while others were shouting in an attempt to calm down the crowd.

While there is a pilot program currently underway at select stations to test the effectiveness of a delayed egress at certain emergency exits, the pilot program is not at any station on the A, C or G lines, the MTA said.

The shooting came one week after Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed members of the National Guard to the city’s subway system following a string of high profile acts of violence.

The shooting continues to rattle Bullock-Vigdor, she said. With schools now closed for spring break, she said she’s managed to avoid taking the train for the time being. But there’s no telling what things will be like when she needs to return back to work.

“It’s been really scary to think about riding the trains,” she said.

Stephen Nessen contributed reporting.

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