Investigators say Tuesday, April 12, 2022, camera surveillance footage, left, shows suspected Brooklyn subway shooter Frank R. James, 62, right, emerging from a nearby train stop moments after Tuesday’s Brooklyn subway train attack. James faces a federal terrorism charge linked to the assault. FBI photos.
The 62-year-old gun-toting suspect wanted for the Tuesday, April 12, attack on a Brooklyn subway train that wounded at least 10 commuters is behind bars, facing a federal terrorism charge.
New York City Police Department officials said a citizen called New York’s Crime Stopper’s tip line Wednesday to report spotting Frank Robert James inside a McDonald’s on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. By the time the cops arrived, he’d vanished, but a dragnet quickly collared him at the intersection of St. Mark’s Place and 1st Avenue, just a few blocks from the restaurant.
He was arrested without incident — a contrast to the terror prosecutors said James had unleashed on the N-line train as it pulled into the 36th Street station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood Tuesday. They claimed James had donned a gas mask and yelled “oops” before popping two smoke bombs and firing at least 33 rounds from a semi-automatic pistol at rush-hour commuters.
“I said to New Yorkers, we want to protect the people of this city and apprehend those who believe they can bring terror to everyday New Yorkers,” Mayor Eric Adams said during a Wednesday briefing. “I want to thank everyday New Yorkers who called in tips, who responded, who helped those passengers who were injured. Thirty-three shots, but less than 30 hours later, we’re able to say we got him.”
On Tuesday, city officials said first responders treated 10 commuters for gunshot wounds and at least 13 others for smoke inhalation and other injuries incurred in the bedlam after the attack.
James faces up to life in a federal prison if he’s convicted on the lone felony charge, which targets terrorist attacks on railways and other mass transportation systems.
At the briefing, John DeVito, special agent in charge of the New York Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said investigators traced a Glock 17 9 mm pistol recovered after the attack to a Federal Firearms Licensee in Ohio who sold it to James in 2011.
DeVito lauded his agents for tracking James’ movements across five states over the span of 16 years, helping to build a case for federal investigators.
Shortly before James’ arrest, the FBI received approval for a no-knock warrant to apprehend the suspect wherever he might be found, day or night.
Drafted by FBI Special Agent Jorge Alvarez, a member of the New York City Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force, the warrant shines a light on a man agents said had lived in shadows before he emerged from a smoke-filled Brooklyn subway car on Tuesday, gun blazing.
Born in New York City, James in recent years resided in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
Cops said that, at the scene of the attack, they recovered two bags that contained James’ firearm, which showed a botched attempt to scrape off its serial number; a plastic container with gasoline in it; a torch; a U-Haul van key; black-powder consumer fireworks; and multiple bank cards.
One of the bank cards had James’ name on it, Alvarez wrote, and ATF agents quickly tracked the serial number to an Ohio purchase by a man with the same name. A financial institution in Wisconsin gave agents James’ telephone number, which matched the number a man provided Monday to a clerk in Philadelphia when renting the seized U-Haul cargo van.
A discarded reflective jacket prosecutors suspect James left at the subway station also contained a receipt for a Philadelphia storage unit registered in his name. Records from the ride-sharing service Lyft showed James had visited the storage facility 14 hours before the subway attack kicked off, Alvarez added in his filing.
New York City Police Department surveillance cameras captured the van crossing over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn at 4:11 a.m. on Tuesday, roughly four hours before the subway station attack, according to the FBI.
Another surveillance camera recorded James at 6:12 a.m. on Tuesday, dressed in a yellow hard hat and orange reflective jacket and carrying a backpack in one hand and a bag in another. The van rented in his name was parked nearby, at 366 Kings Highway, about two blocks away from the N-train stop.
Witnesses inside the subway station described James wearing those clothes and carrying the same bag.
At 8:40 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 minutes after the subway attack began, another video camera caught James emerging from the 25th Street N-train exit, only one stop past the 36th Street station, Alvarez wrote.
In the hours after the attack, Alvarez said agents raided the Philadelphia storage room and seized 9 mm ammo, a threaded pistol barrel designed to hold a silencer or suppressor, multiple shooting targets, and .223 rounds for use with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
That worried agents because law enforcement never recovered a rifle from the scene of the subway rampage or from inside the U-Haul van.
Lyft records also pointed investigators to an apartment rented by James in Philadelphia. The company that manages the property told agents he began his lease on March 28, 2022.
Armed with a search warrant, agents raided the apartment, too. Inside, they found an empty magazine for a Glock handgun, a Taser stun device, a high-capacity rifle magazine, and a blue smoke canister, but no rifle styled like an AR-15, Alvarez wrote.
Agents also began reviewing the 399 videos Coffee or Die Magazine had also found on YouTube. They heard the same bizarre rants about crime, homeless people, numerous conspiracy theories, and the various elected officials James seemed to detest, including his takes on Mayor Adams.
“What are you doing, brother?” James addressed the mayor in one video. “What’s happening with this homeless situation?” At another point, James appears to tell the camera, “And so the message to me is, ‘I should have gotten a gun and just started shooting motherfuckers.’”
Federal court records don’t indicate when James will stand appear before a magistrate, but they show he’s been incarcerated. Coffee or Die’s search through city and state jail records in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, however, failed to turn up where he’s been booked.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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