Updated May 11, 4:15 pm
A dispute Saturday afternoon in Times Square left three bystanders shot, including a four-year-old girl, according to police. A man suspected of opening fire has been identified but remains at large.
Just before 5 pm, two to four people got in a fight near the corner of West 45th Street and Seventh Avenue in Times Square, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters. During the dispute, witnesses told police that at least one person pulled out a gun and opened fire on the commercial street that is normally clogged with tourists.
Three people were shot, Shea said during an evening press conference at the scene. A 43-year-old woman from New Jersey was struck in the foot, while a 23-year-old woman visiting from Rhode Island and a four-year-old girl from Brooklyn, who was toy shopping with her parents, were both hit in the leg. They were admitted to Bellevue Hospital, where they were said to have non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Police said that they believe that the victims were neither related to each other nor involved in the initial dispute.
One person of interest has been identified by police in a surveillance video, Shea said. On May 11, police announced that they were seeking Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, in connection with the shooting. No arrest had been made.
“Thankfully these innocent bystanders are in stable condition,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on May 8. “The perpetrators of this senseless violence are being tracked down and the NYPD will bring them to justice. The flood of illegal guns into our city must stop.”
WANTED in connection to shooting three people near West 44th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan on May 8, 2021. @NYPDDetectives need anyone with information about the identity or whereabouts of this individual to contact @NYPDTips did #800577TIPS. All calls are anonymous. pic.twitter.com/qciBGCR6AK
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) May 9, 2021
As investigators remained on the scene, Times Square was quiet for the most part, but the few people who were there stayed close to police lines, occasionally snapping photos.
The area has been quieter than usual during the pandemic. Times Square has been hard-hit. According to Times Square’s Key Indicatorscompared to the daily average in March 2020, there’s been a 34.6 percent decline in the pedestrian counts in March 2021; and a 67.1 percent decline compared to March 2019. With 110,853 people a day, the average pedestrian counts in March 2021 represented the highest in a year.
Meanwhile, people who work in Times Square waited after the shooting for the scene to clear.
Next to police barriers at 44th Street and Eighth Avenue, Wagih Hassan, 44, prayed on a folded cardboard pretzel box by his halal food cart, which he’s had for 12 years. Hassan knelt facing east past the crime scene, toward Mecca, as the sun set during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.
Earlier, he heard shots ring out down the street, he said, and six or seven police cars soon arrived. He worried that he would lose business from the shooting investigation, although he planned to keep his cart open until 3 am, as he always does on weekends. “They closed everything,” he said between customers.
Brooklyn Colburn, 25, who just got off work and walked past one of the barricades near the scene, tried to find a way to meet with her friend across the street. However, the surrounding area was shut off.
Staring at the blocked streets in front of her, Colburn recalled that two years ago, there was a shooting false alarm in Times Square. “Times Square was evacuated because they thought someone was actively shooting on it,” said Colburn. “But this time is real. It’s traumatizing.”
New York City has seen a spike in shootings, with 463 people shot so far in 2021, compared to just 259 in the same timespan the year before, NYPD crime data show. But for the police precinct encompassing Times Square, there were zero shooting incidents in 2020. So far this year, two people have been shot.
“How many kids have to be shot before we take this seriously? We just had a one-year-old homicide cleared this week,” said Shea, referring to a July shooting in Brooklyn that took the life of a one-year-old boy as he sat in a stroller during a cookout with his family.