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NYC cops: 4 shootings linked to auto show

Four people are shot and dozens of people are arrested in a mile-long stretch of Manhattan near Times Square in mayhem that police linked to the start of the city's annual auto show.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Hundreds of young men spilled into midtown Manhattan near Times Square early Monday, brawling and shooting guns after the New York International Auto Show in an annual night of mayhem the mayor called "wilding."

Four people were shot and 33 were arrested, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct on the streets not far from the Jacob A. Javits Center, where the auto show is held.

Three men and a woman were arrested later Monday on gang assault charges related to one of the shootings, police said. It wasn't clear whether anyone who fired shots was among those arrested. Another 21 were issued summons for disorderly conduct or were given juvenile reports and released.

Additional officers were on patrol over the night because similar problems have happened during past auto shows, dating at least to 2003, chief spokesman Paul J. Browne said.

Last year, there were 27 arrests on the same night. In earlier years arrest numbers ran in the low 20s, Browne said. A teenager was stabbed in a similar ruckus in 2006, and in 2007, another teen was slashed in the arm.

Browne described those arrested Monday as "young men looking for trouble" after the auto show.

The fracas rattled businesses near busy districts in Herald Square, as well as nearby Times Square, where an armed street hustler was shot dead by police after exchanging gunfire on the street in December.

A man was shot in the ankle at Eighth Avenue and 40th Street around 12:10 a.m. Shortly after, a woman was hit with a BB gun several blocks northeast at Seventh Avenue and 51st Street.

About two hours later, two women were shot — one in the elbow and another in the thigh — near Seventh Avenue and 34th Street.

The New York Times reported that police officers closed 41st Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, as well as other streets in the area, to encourage the crowds to disperse.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the night's events as "wilding," using a word created by the media during the notorious 1989 rape of the woman known as the Central Park jogger. Five men were charged with gang-raping her, but their convictions were thrown out in 2002.

Officers also searched trash cans and stopped pedestrians to search their bags, the newspaper reported.

The shootings represent the second major instance of gunfire in the area in recent months, where police have worked for years to stop petty crimes and hustlers targeting tourists. Police and a street hustler armed with a machine pistol exchanged shots in December in Times Square — shattering a Broadway theater ticket window and scattering crowds — before police shot the man dead.

Auto show spokesman Chris Sams said no one stood out as suspicious at the show Sunday.

"We had an amazing crowd, a very family-oriented crowd. The type of person who makes an auto show great, people listening to the presenters," he said.

Sams said security at the show is tight, and officials work with police. Visitors are checked when they arrive.

Most of the people arrested were men in their 20s from boroughs other than Manhattan. Some of them could be gang members, Browne said; the four people arrested on assault charges — three men ages 17 to 23 and a teenage girl — were not believed to have fired any shots, police said.

The auto show runs until April 11 and showcases the latest and greatest in automobiles, like the smallest car on the U.S. market, an $11,900 Smart Fortwo, to the show's most expensive wheels, a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe costing $518,800.