Police sought answers Wednesday from a retired corrections officer after his dispute with a pair of strangers ended with a fatal shooting that spread panic inside a Brooklyn subway station at the height of the evening rush hour.
Willie Groomes shot Gilbert Drogheo at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Borough Hall station after he was harassed by him and a friend. Investigators took Groomes into custody but released him without charges after he agreed to meet for more questioning.
The mayhem began when Groomes, 69, boarded a Brooklyn-bound subway train in Manhattan, armed with a small Ruger handgun he was licensed to carry in public.
According to witnesses, it appeared that Groomes angered Drogheo, 32, of Harlem, and Joscelyn Evering, 28, by stepping in between them while they were talking. The three argued before the pair pushed Groomes down into an empty seat on the train.
All three men exited the train at the next stop in Brooklyn, where there was a second confrontation on the station’s mezzanine level, police said. Groomes tussled with Drogheo before pulling his weapon and firing one round that struck the victim in the chest, killing him. Bystanders scattered.
Thomas Berry, a subway passenger who witnessed the dispute, told the Daily News that Groomes had initially tried to avoid trouble but the others were cursing and clawing at him.
“He said, ‘Leave me alone, don’t talk to me,’” Berry said. “He was being really calm.”