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Astoria man cuffed for firing shots at mugger in Midtown subway

Nov. 9, 2023 By Dean Moses

A vigilante wanted for taking justice into his own hands by firing shots inside of a Midtown subway station at a panhandler who was attempting to rob a woman was cuffed Wednesday for endangering the lives of commuters, police said.

John Rote, 43, of Astoria, intervened in a dispute on the northbound platform at the 49 Street station at around 10 p.m. on Nov. 7 when a known transit cheat identified as 49-year-old Matthew Roesch purportedly began wrestling with a 40-year-old woman, police said.

Roesch had reportedly been holding the emergency door open for riders in exchange for a tip when the woman took advantage of the illegal service without coughing up the cash, resulting in Roesch allegedly attempting to swipe the victim’s purse.

Police report that Rote witnessed the scuffle, yelling: “leave here alone” before  firing a shot at the mugger’s feet. While nobody was wounded, the gunfire halted the robbery attempt, sending the attacker fleeing.

John Rote, 43, was arrested for allegedly shooting at a mugger in a Midtown subway station. Photo by Dean Moses

Police released surveillance images of Rote on Wednesday resulting in cops getting tipped off to his workplace in Lower Manhattan via CrimeStoppers. Detectives took Rote into custody where he was questioned inside of Transit District 2 located at 283 West Broadway.

It is currently unclear if Rote obtained the firearm legally. Police say the weapon has yet to be recovered since he allegedly threw the gun into the East River. 

Sources stated that Rote expressed concern that he had hurt a rider when interviewed by police. Still,  he refused to answer questions from reporters as he was led out of the Canal Street station in cuffs just after 6 p.m. to face arraignment.

Rote is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a firearm, and menacing.

The MTA came out with a statement condemning Rote’s alleged actions following his arrest.

“I want to be clear: we don’t tolerate this kind of conduct in NYC Transit, period. Once again cameras recorded a perpetrator, and we are grateful the NYPD made an arrest within hours. Thank goodness nobody was hurt here—but what occurred was outrageous, reckless, and unacceptable,” said New York City Transit President Richard Davey in a statement.

Roesch, meanwhile, was arrested for attempted robbery, police said.

John Rote, 43, was arrested for allegedly shooting at a mugger in a Midtown subway station. Photo by Dean Moses

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