Hourari Benkada jumped on the last N train carriage Tuesday morning and sat next to a man wearing an MTA vest with a duffle bag who would unleash bloodshed and terror minutes later.
The 27-year-old detailed the chilling commute in an interview with CNN from his hospital bed, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound in the back of his knee as he tried to flee the mass shooter’s bullets.
“This makes me want to never ride a train ever again in my life,” Benkada told CNN via FaceTime.
“I was on 59th street on the ART train transferring to the N train on 59th. It was the first car, last seats. And I’m just not paying attention to that so I just walked in and sat down. The guy is next to me but I didn’t get a glimpse of his face.”
Brooklyn subway shooting survivor Hourari Benkada said he sat next to the suspect while doing his commute.CNN
The NYPD continues to search for the gunman who caused the chaotic commute just before 8:30 am Tuesday, but has named Frank James, 62, as a person of interest. Police say the keys found at the crime scene belong to a U-Haul truck in Philadelphia that was rented by James.
Benkada, a housekeeping manager at the New Yorker Hotel, Benkada watched the man detonate a “smoke bomb” before firing shots just seconds after the train left the station.
Still visibly shaken, Benkada said “I don’t even know how I’m holding my phone” as he recounted what happened next.
“All you see is black smoke after the smoke bomb went off. People bum-rushing to the back,” he told CNN. “About 10 shots went off. I think the gun jammed. I think he had an extended clip or something because I’ve never heard that many shots come off a handgun. It sounded like the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Benkada said his main priority was helping a hurt pregnant woman get off the train before being stampeded. Then Benkada described being shot.
“The worst pain of my entire life. I was just so shocked that the pain didn’t hit me until after.”
The bullet hit him in the back of his knee and came out the other side. Doctors told him the bullet grazed his kneecap. He is expected to walk on his own after several weeks on crutches.
Officials described James as a troubled man who railed against Mayor Adams and made bizarre threatening rants on YouTube.
James — who warned last month that he was “entering the danger zone” — rented a U-Haul van tied to the N train attack in Sunset Park and is being sought for questioning, police said at an evening briefing.
The NYPD increased security for Mayor Adams after police discovered the videos.
James said in the videos that he had a diagnosed mental illness and railed against what he called the “horror show” of the city’s mental health services.
The D/N/R trains resumed service at the 36th Street subway station in each direction early Wednesday, the MTA announced.
The three trains halted service throughout parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan in wake of Tuesday’s shooting just before 8:30 am.
The R train later resumed service but bypassed the station where the shooting occurred.
The day was capped off by a series of shootings that rocked parts of The Bronx and Brooklyn on Tuesday night left three people dead and at least 12 others wounded, police and sources said.