The man suspected of opening fire in Times Square Saturday night, wounding three bystanders, including a 4-year-old girl, has been apprehended at a McDonald's in Starke, Florida.
Officials say Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, had been with his girlfriend, who was later charged after investigators looked into whether she was knowingly helping to harbor a fugitive. The two apparently left New York City together after the shooting.
NYPD detectives checked cameras that showed Muhammad leave Times Square after the gunfire and go to a single room occupancy hotel for the impoverished and homeless near West 42nd Street. There he changed clothes and was seen leaving with his girlfriend, identified as Kristine Vergara.
The two were believed to have been heading south in an SUV and there was a confirmed sighting of the duo in North Carolina on Tuesday. (They apparently stopped for dog food for two dogs traveling with them, police said.) Meanwhile, investigators realized he had connections to some addresses in Florida.
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New information recently emerged that Muhammad was in the Starke area, close to Jacksonville, and local detectives and U.S. Marshals had been combing the community, officials said.
He was caught in Starke around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday after U.S. Marshals spotted him eating in his car in a McDonald's parking lot, officials said. Two dogs were with the pair when they were arrested, with French fries lying on the car’s floor, police said.
Police described his arrest as "uneventful," and said that he had "altered his appearance" by shaving his head. He was seen in photos being led away in handcuffs. Muhammad is currently being held in the Bradford County jail, and he is expected to face charges and be extradited to New York. In a jail video, Muhammad apparently proclaimed his innocence to authorities.
The dark SUV he and his girlfriend had been driving was towed to an impound yard for further investigation, officials said.
“While there is no joy today, there is justice,” New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
Vergara was also arrested and charged with accessory after the fact to second-degree murder, after she admitted that she knew Muhammad was on the run from the NYPD. After initially denying any knowledge, Vergara said she drove Muhammad to Florida to evade police.
Attorney information for Muhammad and Vergara was not immediately clear.
NYPD officials, in a news conference Wednesday, said their investigation into the motive of the shooting was ongoing. Muhammad's brother confirmed to police that he was the intended target, and identified his brother as the shooter.
The gun used in the shooting has not been recovered, although three shell casings had been.
Cops had been looking for Muhammad for days in connection with the shooting in the Crossroads of the World that send hundreds fleeing from the sound of gunshots in New York City's iconic tourist destination on a warm weekend evening.
Police allege Muhammad was trying to shoot his own brother after an argument at the time but missed, wounding the trio of innocent bystanders.
The three victims -- a 4-year-old girl from Brooklyn, a 43-year-old woman from New Jersey, and a 23-year-old woman visiting the city for Mother's Day -- suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and all are expected to recover.
Wendy Magrinat was in town from Rhode Island with her husband and 2-year-old child when she became the latest victim of gun violence in New York City. Magrinat said she heard a scuffle from nearby and the next thing she knew, she was shot.
"All of a sudden I heard someone call out in a bad tone at someone. I told my husband 'let's move a little bit forward' because he had our 2-year-old in his hands," she told NBC New York. "At the same moment I told him that, the shots fired. I walked a little bit and then I started screaming, asking for help."
Magrinat said the bullet shot into her leg would likely be there for the rest of her life. “The doctors said that they wouldn’t do any surgery or take out the bullet, just because it would do more damage,” she said.
NYPD Commissioner Shea confirmed the three victims were unintended targets of the shooter and were not related to one another.
"How many kids have to be shot before we take this seriously? We just had a 1-year-old homicide cleared this week," Shea said, referencing the arrest of two Brooklyn gang members for the summer 2020 shooting that killed the baby boy who had been sitting in his stroller during a family cookout.
Shots were fired right around 5 p.m. Saturday after a reported dispute between a group of men, Shea explained. Nearby witnesses told police the men were arguing near where Muhammad was apparently selling CDs when one pulled out a gun and started shooting, striking the innocent bystanders.
Uniformed officers were near the scene of the shooting - W 44th Street and 7th Avenue - when shots rang out. People in the area were advised to expect delays as police closed off 7th Avenue between 45th and 43rd Streets.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who condemned the senseless shooting and had the NYPD step up patrols in the area afterwards, said this week the daylight shooting at a high-profile location would not deter visitors from returning to the city as the coronavirus pandemic wanes.
“In the end, people want to come to this city,” the Democratic mayor said. “It is an overwhelmingly safe city, when you look at New York City compared to cities around the country, around the world.”
De Blasio said tourists have already started returning. “I thought it would take into the summer before we'd see that kind of comeback,” he said. “It’s happening now.”