A suspect in the Time Square shooting last weekend that injured three people, including a four-year-old girl, pleaded ignorance and denied any wrongdoing, claiming in an interview from a Florida jail that he was not in New York City at the time of the incident.
‘I still don’t know nothing of nothing,’ Farrakhan Muhammad told a WCJB reporter on Wednesday, a day after he and his girlfriend were arrested at a McDonald’s parking lot near Jacksonville, Florida, some 1,000 miles away from the scene of the shooting.
Muhammad, 31, insisted that he was out of the state when gunfire erupted in Times Square just before 5pm on Saturday.
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Wasn’t him: Times Square shooting suspect Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, told a WCJB reporter in a jailhouse interview on Wednesday that he was not in New York City at the time of the incident
Muhammad, who was caught near Jacksonville, Florida, on Wedesday, claimed that he had been evicted from his New York apartment and traveled to New Jersey to stay with his girlfriend’s family
‘I left New York a few days ago. I was in [New] Jersey,’ he said.
Muhammad claimed that he had been evicted from his apartment in New York and traveled to New Jersey with his two dogs to stay with his girlfriend’s family.
Muhammad and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kristine Vergara, later made their way to Bradford County, Florida, where he said they stayed with other family members.
The suspect confirmed that he and Vergara were near the McDonald’s in Starke at the time of their arrest on Tuesday, but claimed that they were on their way to look at an apartment for purchase.
They changed their minds about the property after a Confederate flag was spotted flying over the apartment building, and instead headed to the McDonald’s for lunch.
‘We parked by McDonald’s so we could eat McDonald’s real quick and that’s what happened,’ claimed Muhammad.
US Marshals apprehended Muhammad and booked him into the county jail on an out-of-state warrant, charging him with fugitive from justice.
His girlfriend, who lives in Jacksonville, is facing a count of accessory to second-degree attempted murder.
Muhammad made his initial court appearance in Bradford County, Florida, and opted to delay his extradition
Colonel Brad Smith, with the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, told DailyMail.com that although Muhammad initially was leaning towards not fighting extradition back to New York, during his initial court appearance on Thursday he changed his mind.
Smith said the judge told the defendant that he could be assigned a public defender who would explain his legal options to him, and Muhammad agreed to it. Another hearing was scheduled for May 20.
Spectrum NY1 reported that Muhammad’s attempted escape came to an end due to fuel shortages caused after Russian hackers targeted the Colonial Pipeline.
The fuel line supplies much of the United States east coast, with ongoing disruption caused by the hack causing gas shortages and panic buying across much of the south east. An estimated 10 per cent of Florida gas stations have run out of fuel.
NYPD detectives told a press conference Wednesday that they obtained intelligence shortly after Saturday’s shooting which suggested that Muhammad was heading south.
US Marshals in Starke, Florida, shared this photo of Muhammad after his arrest on Wednesday
Muhammad (left) was booked into jail on an out-of-state warrant. His girlfriend, Kristine Vergara, 22 (right), faces a charge of accessory to attempted murder
He was later spotted traveling through Fayetteville, North Carolina, and eventually picked up another 436 miles away in Starke. ABC News correspondent Aaron Katersky tweeted a photo of Muhammad’s arrest, with police saying he’d shaved his long hair short in an attempted disguise.
Muhammad’s apprehension came four days and 975 miles way from the scene of Saturday evening’s shooting.
He had been staying with his girlfriend since.
She was driving the car when Muhammad was arrested, but has not been charged with any crime. Cops said the suspected shooter had shaved his hair to try and disguise himself.
This map shows the 975 mile trip Muhammad took from New York after Saturday’s shooting, which ended when his car ran out of gas because of fuel shortages, police sources say
Officials told NBC4 he had been found with his girlfriend, and apprehended without incident.
The two apparently left New York City together after the shooting, according to one senior law enforcement official, though it’s not clear if the woman knew he was wanted in the Times Square gunfire at that point.
Muhammad’s brother – who was also in Times Square at the time of the shooting – has since confirmed to the NYPD that he was the intended target, journalists were told on Wednesday.
Muhammad was arrested after being caught in a car with his girlfriend and their two dogs in the parking lot of this McDonald’s in Starke, Florida, on Wednesday morning
NYPD detectives checked cameras that showed him leave Times Square after the gunfire and go to a hotel near West 42nd Street, NBC reported. There he changed clothes and was seen leaving with his girlfriend.
Muhammad was caught in partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service, according to the Wall Street Journal, and will be extradited back to New York at a later date.
A NYPD spokesman told a press conference Wednesday that Muhammad was determined to be fleeing south in the wake of the shooting, and was picked up as he traveled through Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Detectives said they have yet to track down the gun used in the shooting, and have appealed for further information.
A suspect said to be Farrakhan Muhammad has been arrested on suspicion of Saturday’s shooting in Times Square, which left three people injured
Muhammad, who sold CDs in the famed Manhattan plaza, was believed to have been targeting his brother, who he’d just gotten into an argument with, when he opened fire, sending hundreds of people fleeing for their lives.
Four-year-old Skye Martinez, 23-year-old Wendy Magrinat and 43-year-old Marcela Aldana were all injured in the attack.
The shooting occurred at around 5 p.m. Saturday night in front of the Minskoff Theater. It normally hosts the hit musical Lion King, but which is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Upon hearing gunshots, many victims have said they felt panic and confusion, with dramatic footage showing frightened crowds scattering as they realized what was happening.
Magrinat said onlookers began filming her with their mobile phones rather than help in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
This graphic shows how the Colonial Pipeline hack is affecting the US, with those in the southeast hardest hit by the attack
She was on a sightseeing trip from Rhode Island when she was shot in the leg while standing with her husband Yoel, their two-year-old daughter Elise, and her mother, stepfather and eight-year-old sister.
Magrinat said she started screaming after she had been shot in the leg: ‘I don’t want to die, please help me! The pain was too much, and I dropped to the floor.
‘I understand people get in shock. But if you’re in shock, you shouldn’t be recording. But that’s how people are right now.’
Danae Romero, 16, meanwhile, said she was waiting in the queue at a toy store with her four-year-old niece Skye when the shooting began.
Romero said the pair ran for their lives – but described how Skye was struck by a stray bullet in her calf.
‘She didn’t feel anything. Even when we noticed when we were at the corner, she wasn’t crying,’ Romero told the Post.
Instead, she sat there, as Police Officer Alyssa Vogel sprinted down the tourist spot. stopping at Skye and immediately applying a tourniquet to her leg.
Body camera footage shows Vogel then scooped up the child, and ran her to a nearby ambulance.
Cop Alyssa Vogel was filmed running from the tourist hotspot with four-year-old Skye Martinez in her arms on Saturday after gunman Farrakhan Muhammed, 31, opened fire (right). On Monday, Vogel said she was just doing her job
In an interview with DailyMail.com, Vogel said she thought any police officer in that situation would have done the same thing
She said she wanted to get Skye the help she needed and treated her as her own child.
‘I think any officer that would’ve responded to a job just like that would’ve done the exact same thing,’ Vogel previously told DailyMail.com.
In an interview with Good Morning America on Monday, Vogel said the only time Skye was uncomfortable was when she and another cop tightened a tourniquet around her leg on the way to the hospital.
‘This little girl is the strongest person I have ever seen for somebody just been shot, she was just standing there obviously scared but she wasn’t crying or anything. She only yelled when we tightened the tourniquet.
‘She was very calm for someone who was in a very traumatic situation,’ she said.
Vogel previously told The New York Post: ‘I kept telling her [the child’s mom] to breathe, that I know what she’s going through because I have a baby myself. It was very difficult for her, very traumatic. She saw her daughter just get shot.
‘I kept telling her to breathe and that her daughter was going to be OK. I kept trying to calm her down because she was obviously very scared.
Former school teacher Vogel joined the NYPD four years ago. Her father, husband and brother are also cops.
‘I just wanted to join the police department and help people.’
The shooting began Saturday night in front of the Minskoff Theater that hosts the hit musical Lion King, but which is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions
Crosstown traffic was shut down indefinitely following the shooting, as police investigated the incident that left three injured
Police presence increased in Times Square in the days that followed the shooting
The shooting came amid criticism from the Sergeants Benevolent Association and mayoral candidates.
They Saturday’s shooting was proof of the need of more funding for the NYPD, who had their budget slashed by $1billion last summer by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He was celebrating his 60th birthday when the shooting occurred Saturday night, but later tweeted he was glad the victims were in stable condition.
‘The perpetrators of this senseless violence are being tracked down and the NYPD will bring them to justice,’ he wrote. ‘The flood of illegal guns into our city must stop.’
Violent crime has skyrocketed in New York City over the last few years.
Data from the New York Police Department shows there have been over 2,600 grand larceny arrests in April alone and 1,630 assault cases. Those figures are up 62 and 35 percent, respectively, from the same time last year.
Violent crime has skyrocketed in recent months, with shooting at their most frequent since 1998
Shootings, meanwhile, are at their most frequent since 1998.
‘Live from Times Square Disney in NYC the center of the world and the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ where 4 year old girls are shot in broad day light, only feet away from a police precinct,’ the SBA tweeted about the incident that night, including a photo of the Times Square Mickey Mouse.
‘Tourists avoid NYC don’t become a victim, please go to the real Disney in Florida.’
Tourists were just starting to come back to the Big Apple following a 18-month break in travel thanks to COVID-19, mayoral front-runner Andrew Yang said, who added that the Big Apple ‘cannot afford’ to listen to left-wing calls to defund its police department.
‘When I talk to New Yorkers, I get a very different message every single day. Nothing works in our city without public safety, and for public safety we need the police.
‘My message to the NYPD is this: New York needs you, your city needs you. We need you to do your jobs professionally, responsibly and justly. I will have your back.’
His rival Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who edged ahead of Yang in a recent poll, slammed Yang for only now picking up on the rise in crime, which he said has been prevalent in poorer neighborhoods for years.
‘You know what, Andrew? These shootings have been happening blocks from my house for years and blocks from the houses of poorer New Yorkers for years.
‘It is time for us to recognize it when it is in every square block of our city. Shame on you for not realizing that,’ he said.
One of Adams’ campaign promises is to reinstate the disbanded NYPD anti-crime unit which de Blasio canceled last year amid criticism of its violent tactics.
NYC Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has pledged to establish a new ‘anti-violence plain clothes unit to reduce guns and gun violence’. ‘The police will be key to our recovery,’ he said.
Times Square has remained a popular tourist destination despite a rise in crime
In a news conference following the shooting, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said that his officers have been taking guns off the streets at an ‘alarming rate over the past two years.’
‘It’s time now that we have consequences for those,’ he added, seeming to refer to bail reform policies that see many suspects, including those caught with illegal firearms, walk free without posting cash bond.
‘How many more kids do we need to be shot before we realize that bad policies have consequences?’ said Shea. ‘We need action, and we need policies regarding laws to have consequences.’
Detectives started looking into Muhammad as a possible suspect for the shooting after they approached a man on West 31st St in Manhattan on Sunday believing that he looked like him, The Post reported.
‘I’m his brother,’ the man told the detectives.
Police then released Muhammad’s mugshot and were asking for any help in locating him, as he fled the scene immediately after the shooting.
He had previously been arrested on suspicion of assault.
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