OAKLAND -- As the packed BART train slowed to a halt Saturday night, a series of gunshots reverberated through the six cars and the sparsely populated West Oakland station platform. Some passengers fled out the open car doors, while others crouched down, panicked, confused and scanning the scene for what they believed could be an active shooter terrorist plot unfolding, as had happened in Paris and San Bernardino.
But some people soon gathered their wits. Shortly after the unidentified young man who was shot as he sat near a train door fell to the floor bleeding, cars full of strangers suddenly teamed together to care for the victim and other traumatized riders, one passenger said later.
"There were definitely some heroes," said Brad Chapin, 25, of San Francisco, who was one car behind the one in which the shooting occurred and filmed the ensuing chaos on his cellphone -- a short clip of BART passengers looking terrified and crouching down in the train. "It was partly being a hero, but you can also call it was people driven to action."
Police released few additional details Sunday of the brazen, nearly unprecedented shooting inside the transit agency's trains, saying the victim would likely be identified Monday after an autopsy and that no suspect had been arrested or detained. One man who was mistakenly taken into custody Saturday night was released.
"A lot of people were just absolutely paralyzed with fear, and rightfully so," Chapin said. "We all thought it was going to be all over for us."
Riders in his train car took cover, not knowing that the shooter had already bolted from the train and fled the station. The suspect was described by police as a tall, thin and bald black man wearing jeans, a hooded jacket, red-and-black boxers and tan boots. Police are still trying to find him.
What sparked the shooting was unclear, and police offered only the barest sketch of the incident. BART police Lt. Aaron Ledford said the shooting occurred about 7:50 p.m. Saturday as the San Francisco-bound Pittsburg/Bay Point line train pulled into the West Oakland station. The victim had "some sort of knife," he said.
A middle-aged man sitting next to the victim dropped to his knees and administered CPR on the man for at least 10 minutes, Chapin said. Two female nurses, including one who came up from the lower platform when she heard the commotion, joined him and began to treat the young man, Chapin said. A video and photographs show the man giving chest compressions and the two women treating the man, as screams can be heard on the platform.
"They certainly are heroes to do what they were doing. With no equipment and with little hope that they could do much, they did it anyway," Chapin said. "(They) put their emotions aside. I just thought that they were so human in the situation, so calm and comforting. With all of the chaos, that was extremely impressive."
In the end, the trio's efforts were for naught, as the man was declared dead inside the BART car.
One nurse, who told Chapin she works in an intensive care unit, shared how treating someone outside of a hospital in "real life" was different and frustrating without any lifesaving instruments.
"She acted like a hero, but she felt terrible because she didn't have any of the equipment she would have needed," Chapin said.
Meanwhile, other strangers lent a hand in other ways. A woman frantically searched for medical professionals throughout the station and a man blocked the view of the victim from traumatized patrons, while Chapin, a psychology student, offered comfort to scared riders, he said.
When the shots first rang out, Chapin crouched with others in his train car. One man told them all to stay down as he stood and kept watch to make sure the scene was safe. One soft-spoken BART police officer stood out for his comforting manner, Chapin said.
"There are so many different people who did really important things," Chapin said.
Little is known about the shooter. Witnesses told ABC7 that they had noticed a disheveled-looking man get on the train at either Rockridge or MacArthur station. Police did not recover a gun at the scene, Ledford said, but law enforcement announced over their radio channels that the suspect was seen carrying a black semi-automatic handgun.
Authorities removed the body shortly before midnight, and early Sunday morning three of the cars on the six-car train were taken to a maintenance yard as part of the investigation, BART spokesman Jim Allison said.
Another man detained by police Saturday night has been released.
"He matched the description put out there," Ledford said. "But he ended up being ID'd and released."
Despite BART riders' initial fears of a terrorist attack, BART officials said there is no evidence the shooting resulted from such a plot. According to Ledford, the fatal shooting was believed to be the first aboard a BART train since a man was killed on a train at the El Cerrito del Norte station in the 1990s.