Before he pulled a 9mm pistol and inexplicably shot a complete stranger in the chest aboard a moving train Sunday morning, the heavyset man in a white mask might have been mistaken at first glance as a model citizen adhering to a new ad campaign in the New York City subway.
“Stop the spread,” the ads read. “Wear a mask… It’s a sign of respect… I take care of you. You take care of me.”
But along with wearing a face covering, the man had a blue hoodie pulled up over his head on what had become an unseasonably hot day. And he was pacing back and forth in car 5708 at the very end of a Q train crossing the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn. The Statue of Liberty and 1 World Trade Center and other spires of the city could be seen off to the left.
The other masked passengers included Daniel Enriquez. He was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn in 1974, a year when the city witnessed 1,574 murders. His family had moved to the state of Washington when the body count reached a record of 2,245 in 1990.
New York was still New York, and the lure of it brought Enriquez back to the place of his birth. He was attending NYU when new police strategies conceived by a subway cop named Jack Maple led to a record drop in crime above and below ground. Fear City was becoming the safest big city in America as Enriquez graduated and went on to work as a researcher with Goldman Sachs. Murders fell below 300 a year.
But in more recent days, New York had begun to unravel. Murders rose to 485 in 2021, a fraction of the 1990 high, but enough to bring back a chill. A combined threat of crime and COVID continued, keeping many people from the subway, Enriquez among them. A surge in Uber prices prompted him to return in recent weeks, despite the shooting of 10 passengers by a maniac aboard a Brooklyn subway train in April.
Late Sunday morning Enriquez walked to a subway station two blocks from his brownstone home in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He was heading for brunch with his brother at a bistro called Juliette in Williamsburg, the high-crime neighborhood where he was born having become gentrified.
The stairs to the Manhattan-bound trains lead to the front of the platform. Enriquez walked to the far end and boarded the very last car of an arriving Q train, sitting at the very back. That would put him closest to where he needed to go when he got off at the Union Square station in Manhattan to transfer to the L train to his destination. He was clearly somebody who planned ahead. And he was in fact a model citizen, somebody who wore a mask out of respect for others, doing his bit to stop the spread.
The train rolled on past the Atlantic Avenue and DeKalb Avenue stops. Enriquez was sitting silent and still. The heavyset man in a hoodie and a mask had begun to pace up and down the car as it passed from the tunnel dark onto the Manhattan Bridge. Sunlight poured through the windows, which offered a view of the harbor and the city’s famous sights.
Just as the train was returning to the tunnel, the heavyset man produced a pistol and fired. Enriquez fell to the floor, mortally wounded. The train clattered into darkness for an eternal minute before reaching the Canal Street station.
Somebody in the car pulled the emergency brake and there were calls to 911. The heavyset man fled up two flights of stairs to the street. Police sources say he placed his gun in the cup of a homeless panhandler who stood by the subway entrance. The panhandler quickly sold the weapon to another homeless person for $10 and some cocaine. The other homeless man stashed the weapon and subsequently went up to a detective at the scene and directed him to it.
When police checked the subway surveillance footage, the gunman’s face covering combined with his hoodie to obscure his identity. But there remained a chance somebody would recognize the killer.
“We need all eyes on this,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell declared when she posted stills from the footage on Twitter.
The footage offered a glimpse of an orange T-shirt under the gunman’s hoodie. A check of video from surveillance cameras around the station showed a figure of a similar build without a hoodie, but in an orange shirt and a white mask.
By Monday, police had identified 25-year-old Andrew Abdullah of Manhattan as a person of prime interest in the killing. He has a criminal record that includes seven felony counts and was among 13 members of two affiliated Harlem gangs—“Fast Money” and “Nine Block”—charged in sweeping indictments in May 2017.
“The violence alleged in the indictments includes eight shootings with eight shooting victims, as well as slashings, gang assaults, gunpoint robberies, and various weapons-related offenses,” the Manhattan district attorney’s office noted when announcing the arrests.
Abdullah, known on the street as “Ace,” pleaded guilty in November 2018 to conspiracy and gun charges in exchange for a maximum term of three years. He was paroled in June 2019, just over two years after his arrest.
Six months later, in January 2020, Abdullah was arrested for possession of a loaded gun outside the Harlem building where he resided.
“Glock .40 caliber firearm with serial number UFP720 [recovered] from the defendant’s right jacket pocket,” the criminal complaint noted.
Abdullah was released after posting $100,000 bail. He remained at liberty despite being arrested for domestic violence in March 2021. He allegedly punched a woman and slammed her against a wall while she was holding a baby. He was charged with endangering the welfare of a child as well as assault.
Abdullah is due back in court on the gun charge on June 6. The courthouse is two blocks down Centre Street from where the paramedics carried Enriquez up out of the subway. Posters at entrances to the latest subway station to become a crime scene showed four video stills—three of the figure in a hoodie ascending from the subway, a fourth of what appears to be the same figure wearing an orange T-shirt in the street. All are wearing a white mask.
“UP TO $3,500 REWARD INFORMATION REGARDING A HOMICIDE.”
One question that remains is what prompted the gunman to suddenly pull a pistol and shoot a man with whom he seems to have had no connection or interaction. Another question was voiced by a police official:
“Why the hell is this guy out walking around?”
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