BROOKLYN — Mitchell H. Rosen’s quick thinking may have helped save some lives following one of the worst New York City mass subway shootings in recent memory.
Though the retired CSEA member, who worked as a supervisor and collector for the state Taxation and Finance Department, lived miles away from the Brooklyn subway station where a gunman shot over a dozen riders, Rosen was the one who led authorities to the suspect’s vehicle.
Blocked driveway leads to call
“Early that morning, we noticed a white van with Arizona plates that was blocking our building’s driveway and the bus stop,” said Rosen, who retired four years ago and is now a New York Metropolitan Retirees Local member.
He called the New York City’s non-emergency 311 line to report the vehicle and then took his dog for a walk.
“Then, when I went back upstairs, I turned on the news and the first thing I hear is that police are looking for a white van with Arizona plates,” Rosen said. “I shut off the TV and called 911.”
The police dispatcher peppered him with questions about the van, which had been parked at the location for at least nine hours, according to Rosen.
Within minutes, authorities were evacuating his multifamily building.
“We were outside for almost four hours,” said Rosen. “They roped off the area and pushed us back three to four streets.”
At the subway crime scene, police found a key to the rental van that they eventually used to gain access.
Inside, they found additional explosive devices and other paraphernalia that could have been used to inflict death, injury or fear.
“Wherever you looked, you saw a police car and then the FBI and the bomb squad arrived,” said Rosen, adding that police helicopters had also hovered overhead. “I have never seen a police presence like this.”
‘Did the right thing’
When he spoke to the authorities and let them know he made the initial call, Rosen said that was the moment when he realized what he had done.
“I might have saved some people,” said Rosen. “What if he had come back to the van?”
The following morning, with the suspect still at large, he was approached on the street by a local CBS news reporter after a neighbor identified him as the person who led police to the van.
His interview led the noon news coverage as it was viewed as a significant break in the case.
“A lot of my friends saw me and said I did the right thing,” Rosen said.
Authorities were also able to canvass the area and collect videos that showed the suspect with the same clothing as the attacker and pushing a cart like the one used in the attack. The next day, the suspect was arrested.
While he didn’t get a cash reward from the city, he is nonetheless grateful.
“If I stopped him from making more mischief because he couldn’t go back to the van, I feel good about that,” said Rosen. “You have to get involved and do your civic duty. You don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
— David Galarza