Suspect in New York Times Square shootings arrested in Florida

FILE PHOTO: New York City police officers stand in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City

By Peter Szekely

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man wanted in the weekend shooting of three bystanders, including a 4-year-old girl, in New York's Times Square was arrested near Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday after an intensive manhunt, New York police officials said.

"While there is no joy today, there is justice," New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told a briefing, adding he had promised the girl's father the shooter would be found.

The gunfire, in which police said the victims did not appear to be the intended targets, erupted late on Saturday afternoon in one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the country and with an always heavy police presence.

All the victims are expected to make full recoveries.

Police said they mounted an intensive investigation, which was still ongoing.

"You can only imagine: It's daytime, shooting, Times Square, thousands of hours of video cameras to be reviewed, witnesses to be interviewed," said NYPD Chief Of Detectives James Essig. "And here we are four days later, with an apprehension."

The suspect, Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, was taken into custody without incident by U.S. Marshals Service officers at a McDonald's parking lot in Starke with a woman believed to be his girlfriend who was driving their car, Essig said.

Detectives determined that Muhammad was heading south and was spotted on a video camera in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he said. The suspect is being held by Starke police while officials seek to extradite him to New York, Essig added.

The girl, who was shot in the leg, had come to Times Square with her family to buy toys, Shea said on Saturday. The other two victims were a 23-year-old female tourist from Rhode Island who was also shot in the leg and a 43-year-old woman from New Jersey who was shot in the foot, he said.

Police believe the shootings came during a dispute between two to four people who had no connection to the victims.

While gun violence and other crimes have jumped in New York and other American cities since the onset of the pandemic, the shootings in highly visible Times Square shocked officials.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)