A chaotic scene of smoke, gunfire and panic broke out on a Brooklyn subway train during rush hour Tuesday morning in what witnesses and elected leaders have described as a “terrorizing” crime.
But New York officials on Tuesday said they weren’t investigating the shooting as terrorism “at this time,” renewing questions about why crimes like mass shootings aren’t always or immediately categorized as terrorism and how legal definitions don’t completely capture the way crimes are experienced by communities.
New York subway shooting highlights: Tuesday’s shooting incident in Brooklyn comes just a day after United States President Joe Biden announced new gun control measures.
New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers leave a subway station, the scene of a shooting, in the Brooklyn borough on April 12, 2022.
At least 16 people have been injured in a shooting at a subway station in New York’s Brooklyn on Tuesday morning. The accused has been identified as a black male who wore a construction vest and filled the train with smoke and opened fire on passengers. He is still on loose.
The New York City Fire Department said that of the total injured, 10 were hit by gunfire.
“The accused filled the train with smoke and opened fire on the passengers. He was reportedly a Black male, 5’5″ tall, with a heavy build. Wearing a green construction-type vest and a grey hooded sweatshirt,” Keechant Sewell, the New York City Police Commissioner, told reporters on Tuesday.
She added there are no known explosive devices on the subway train and the attack is not being probed as an act of terrorism.
This incident in Brooklyn comes just a day after United States President Joe Biden announced new gun control measures.
There is no single definition of terrorism, even within the United States. Title 22 of the U.S. Code defines “terrorism” as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
“Domestic terrorism” is defined under Title 18 as involving acts dangerous to human life that violate criminal law and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.
“It comes down to the fact that terrorism is violence that is used for political ends,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.
While a mass shooting that is based on an employment or familial dispute may be “horrific,” Beirich said, if the crime doesn’t have a political motive then it isn’t categorized as terrorism.
Brooklyn subway shooting: ‘We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized’
Beirich noted the mass shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019 all had political elements and were categorized as terrorism.
Categorizing a crime as an act of terrorism impacts how a case is prosecuted and what the penalties will be, Beirich said. Terrorism also constitutes a societal challenge and has to be countered forcefully, she added.
“Terrorism is intended to instill fear in whatever communities the political motive is targeting, and thus has an impact far beyond just the violence that happens,” she said.
A different kind of terror
James Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech, noted a random mass attack strikes a different kind of terror.
“Any kind of random act of mass shooting really affects us differently because we all think, well, is this gonna happen again?” he said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it, so there’s no predictability of it. And so now, every time I get on a subway, I remember what happened in New York. It just increases the whole perception of risk of living our lives.”
But it is too early to conclude the attack Tuesday was not an act of terrorism, said William Bratton, a former New York Police Department commissioner.
There was no immediate evidence pointing in that direction, such as a statement by the attacker that would suggest an ideological or political motive, Bratton said. But such evidence could surface later.
The former commissioner noted that the attack occurred in a large Asian American community, a fact that investigators will likely take into account given the increased violence directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Is it terror or just a deranged individual?” Bratton said. “It’s a question that might take some time.”
Source: Hindustan Times