A Portrait Painter Helped Police Nab the Suspected NYC Subway Shooter, Crediting His Artist’s Eye in Spotting Him on the Street

Lee Vasu, a painter and the owner of Dacia Gallery, said he studied the suspect's face closely before happening to see him on the street.

NYPD officers stand guard at the 36 Street subway station on April 13, 2022, after a gunman shot 10 people. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Call it an artist’s eye.

New York portrait painter Lee Vasu helped spot the alleged subway shooter who opened fire on a crowded N train in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, injuring 23 people, in the East Village today, April 13, leading to his arrest.

Vasu spent a long time studying the man’s face after a photograph was published on CNN’s website. 

He was having lunch at Cafe Mogador on St. Mark’s Place with his mother, wife, and 8-month-old daughter today.

After the family finished lunch and started walking up First Avenue, a familiar face caught Vasu’s eye. 

“I was like: ‘What the hell?’” said Vasu, who runs Dacia Gallery on East 11th Street. “I told my wife, ‘The subway shooter is right behind us. Go fast. Push the baby. No time for argument. Go.’”


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At one point, the suspect, who was wearing a blue t-shirt and blue pants, was about six feet behind Vasu and his family. As he walked, Vasu said he could hear him mumbling “Fuck the FBI. Fuck the FBI.”

They made a turn onto 9th Street. “I got them to safety and I ran back to the guy,” Vasu said in a telephone interview, still reeling from the experience.

By that time, other people noticed the suspect, who’s been at large since the attack on Tuesday. 

“I went up to him and took my phone out because I literally had his picture on my phone,” Vasu said. He also showed it to a cop, whose car was parked on the corner of First Avenue. “And he said, ‘Shoot, that is him!”  

Within seconds police cars started coming from every direction, Vasu said, and the man was arrested.

Vasu said that being an artist helped him identify the suspect. 

“I was looking at him as if I was drawing him,” he said. “As an artist, you study every facial feature really well. I looked at him for quite a while and then half an hour later, there he was. You can’t escape an artist in the East Village.” 

The arrest was confirmed by New York Mayor Eric Adams in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Artnet News was able to confirm with the NYPD that he was taken into custody at 1:45 p.m. today on St. Marks and First Avenue.

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