Man charged after he fired 2 shots trying to prevent purse snatching on NYC subway

Nov 9, 2023, 12:06 PM | Updated: 6:18 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — A man who pulled out a pistol and fired it on a New York City subway platform in an apparent attempt to stop someone from stealing a woman’s purse was charged Thursday with criminal possession of a weapon and menacing.

No one was struck by the gunshots Tuesday inside the station, located a few blocks north of Times Square.

Authorities said John Rote, 43, intervened when a man who had been asking riders for money near the turnstiles at around 9 p.m. tried to grab a 40-year-old woman’s purse.

According to prosecutors, he pulled a gun from his bag and fired at least one shot on the platform, before fleeing the scene and disposing of his firearm.

Security camera footage published in the New York Post showed part of the confrontation.

“I’ve looked at the video,” New York City Transit President Richard Davey said at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s, I would say unusual. He sort of looks very calm, pulls out a gun, fires two shots, calmly puts the gun back in the bag and walks away.”

“The point is, that’s not what we need from anybody in this system,” he said.

Rote is originally from West Virginia and has ties out of state, but no criminal history, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

“Thank goodness nobody was hurt here — but what happened was outrageous, reckless, and unacceptable,” Davey said in a statement released after Rote was arrested.

Police also arrested Matthew Roesch, 49, Tuesday night on a charge of attempted robbery.

Authorities said Roesh was holding an emergency gate open to let riders avoid paying the fare and then asking for money in return. His attorney could not immediately be reached.

When the 40-year-old woman declined to pay him, “it looks like he attempted to steal her purse,” Davey said.

Although the New York City subway system has been plagued by problems including fare evasion and aggressive panhandling, it is rare for riders to take law enforcement into their own hands.

Rote’s arrest recalled the death earlier this year of Jordan Neely, a onetime Michael Jackson impersonator who was placed in a fatal chokehold after witnesses said he was begging for money and acting in a threatening manner aboard a subway train.

U.S. Marine veteran Daniel Penny has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in Neely’s May 1 death.

In New York’s most infamous example of vigilante subway violence, Bernhard Goetz shot four young Black men on a subway train in 1984 after one of them asked him for $5. Goetz, who is white, said he thought he was being robbed. A jury acquitted him of attempted murder but convicted him of carrying an unlicensed handgun.

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Man charged after he fired 2 shots trying to prevent purse snatching on NYC subway