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Times Square shooting suspect apprehended in Florida McDonald's parking lot after 4-day manhunt, police say

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/12/2021 Christal Hayes, USA TODAY
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A man accused of opening fire at Times Square in New York City and injuring three people, including a 4-year-old girl, was arrested Wednesday in Florida after a four-day manhunt

Farrakhan Muhammad, 31, opened fire at the tourism attraction in the heart of Manhattan during a dispute with his brother, the New York Police Department announced at a mid-day news conference. He was captured outside Jacksonville, Fla. by U.S. Marshals while eating French fries in a McDonald's parking lot, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters. 

Essig praised officers for their work on the case: "If you can only imagine. It's a daytime shooting, Times Square, thousands of hours of video cameras to be viewed, witnesses to be interviewed, the eyes of the world were on them, they were watching. And here we are: Four days later with an apprehension," Essig said. "Truly a great job by the New York City police detectives."

a city street filled with lots of traffic: In this image taken from video by the FDNY, pedestrians hurry away from the scene of a shooting in Times Square, Saturday, May 8, 2021, in New York. New York City police say three innocent bystanders including a 4-year-old girl who was toy shopping have been shot in Times Square and officers are looking for suspects. All the victims are expected to recover. (FDNY via AP) © AP In this image taken from video by the FDNY, pedestrians hurry away from the scene of a shooting in Times Square, Saturday, May 8, 2021, in New York. New York City police say three innocent bystanders including a 4-year-old girl who was toy shopping have been shot in Times Square and officers are looking for suspects. All the victims are expected to recover. (FDNY via AP)

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Essig said Muhammad had changed his appearance since the shooting, shaving off some of his dreadlocks. 

Police said they worked with other agencies down the East Coast, getting tips about possible suspect sightings. Muhammad and his girlfriend, who was also taken into custody but has not been charged, were spotted at a Walmart in North Carolina buying dog food for two dogs they were traveling with. 

Their movement led New York Police to believe the pair were traveling South, and officers found several addresses associated to the pair in Florida. 

a person standing in front of a store: Police officers are seen next to marked shell casings from a gun in Times Square on May 8, 2021 in New York City. According to reports, three people, including a toddler, were injured in a shooting near West 44th St. and 7th Ave. © David Dee Delgado, Getty Images Police officers are seen next to marked shell casings from a gun in Times Square on May 8, 2021 in New York City. According to reports, three people, including a toddler, were injured in a shooting near West 44th St. and 7th Ave.

A motive wasn't revealed, but Essig said Muhammad and his brother are both CD vendors in the city and his brother told authorities he knew he was the target of Muhammad's fire. 

Three people were injured but survived the shooting. The girl who was saved by a quick-thinking police officer who scooped her up from a stroller, applied a tourniquet to her leg and brought her to a nearby ambulance. Muhammad's brother was not hit in the attack. 

The officer — Alyssa Vogel, a mother of a 6-month-old herself — was seen in dramatic video of the rescue. In an interview with the New York Post, Vogel called the 4-year-old the "strongest little girl I’ve ever seen.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said he visited the girl after the shooting and said Wednesday was bittersweet. 

"We were all there Saturday night in Times Square when three innocent people were shot senselessly," he said. "While there is no joy today, there is justice."

More: 'Motherly instincts' kicked in, says hero police officer who saved 4-year-old in Times Square shooting

Speaking with "Good Morning America," Vogel said her "motherly instincts" kicked in.

Hearing a child was shot "was definitely more nerve-wracking because you don't know where she was shot, or if it was true if she was OK. I didn't know the circumstances. So as a mom, I think my motherly instincts went to, 'I need to help her,'" she said.

According to the latest statistics released by the NYPD, shooting incidents are up by about 86% in 2021 compared with this time last year. However, shootings still remain far lower than what the city saw during peaks of violent crime in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Contributing: Ryan Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Times Square shooting suspect apprehended in Florida McDonald's parking lot after 4-day manhunt, police say

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