Update: New York City police say they have apprehended Frank James, the man they say opened fire in a subway car in Brooklyn on Tuesday (April 12) during the morning commute, wounding 10 and injuring 13 more.
In a news conference, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said that James stopped on the street Wednesday afternoon (April 13) by officers responding to a tip and was taken into custody while simply walking around the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was arrested without incident.
“We hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the city of New York,” Sewell said, noting that a network of law enforcement aided in tracking him down. “We were able to shrink his world quickly, there was nowhere left for him to run.
It is unclear how he got from the site of the shooting in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn to the area where he was found, several miles away, but authorities say detectives will backtrack his steps in their investigation with the aid of video canvassing.
James was caught on video by an onlooker being handcuffed by police officers and placed into a squad car to be booked at the local precinct.
In a news conference New York mayor Eric Adams, praised the law enforcement officers and citizens who all aided in apprehending the suspect.
“We will protect the people of this city and apprehend those who believe they can bring terror to everyday new yorkers,” said Adams, speaking from the mayoral residence because he is quarantining after a COVID diagnosis. “I want to thank everyday New Yorkers, who called in tips, who responded, who helped those passengers who were injured.”
James, 62, whose residence was reportedly in Milwaukee, also had connections to Ohio, New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to James Essig, NYPD Chief of Detectives. He also has a lengthy arrest record with nine prior arrests in New York dating from 1992 to 1998 ranging from possession of burglary tools, a criminal sex act, theft of service and criminal tampering. He also has three arrests in New Jersey in 1991, 1992 and 2007 for trespass, larceny and disorderly conduct.
However, he does not have a felony conviction and was thus able to purchase the Glock 9mm firearm found at the scene of the shooting in Ohio in 2011.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said that James will be charged with terrorism or other violent acts on mass transit in Brooklyn Federal Court. If convicted he could face life imprisonment.
Authorities, who had originally sought a “person of interest” had named James as a suspect in the shooting, NYPD officials announced on Wednesday (April 13). He is believed to have acted alone in carrying out the violence. Police do not know of any motive yet.
According to Sewell, the shooter opened two canisters that spread smoke throughout the subway car and then as the train pulled into a station, fired 33 shots, striking 10 passengers and injuring 13 others who either hurt themselves trying to escape or suffered smoke inhalation. None of the injuries appeared to be life threatening, she told reporters.
“We are truly fortunate that this was not significantly worse than it is,” said Sewell at a Tuesday press conference. Police also noted that James’ firearm jammed with ammunition still inside. A semiautomatic handgun, three extended magazines, a hatchet, fireworks and gasoline were found at the scene.
Police had offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he does not appear to have a criminal record in Wisconsin. The New York Post reports that police found a U-Haul rental truck in Brooklyn that they believe he rented in Philadelphia to drive to the area. A credit card was found at the scene that was thought early on to have belonged to James and charges on it are related to the Philadelphia rental.
Little is known about James’ life, but at least one person who came across him described him as “weird,” and as never speaking to anyone. “Like if I say, ‘Hello, good morning,’ he just grunts at me like he’s some old grumpy Black man,” Keilah Miller, James’ neighbor in Milwaukee, told the Times, adding that he once accosted her over a key left in the door to her apartment, yelling at her “don't ever do that again.”
She also said that she had not seen him since March. On March 20, he posted a YouTube video in which he said that he was driving to Philadelphia and “heading back into the danger zone, so to speak.” But he also talked about dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder from past traumas. It is unclear what those traumas may have been or when he arrived in Philadelphia.
In other videos on his YouTube channel, James rants in a series of profane tirades about a variety of social issues ranging from the war in Ukraine, to race and Black social morality to crime and violence, in which he gives specific criticism to Adams. The last video was posted on Monday (April 11), but he gave no indication that he planned any type of violent attack.
Witness videos showed smoke coming out of the subway car where the attack took place and also injured and bloodied passengers attempting to get away. Police say James entered the subway system at a location in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood. The station a few blocks from the location where his U-Haul truck was later found. The shooting took place on a train in the Sunset Park neighborhood a few miles away.
Malfunctioning cameras at the subway station where passengers escaped from the cars were said to have hindered police investigation because they did not capture the suspect exiting the transit system. In one of his videos, James mocked the safety of the subways and Adams ability to keep it safe, adding that it would be relatively easy to cause trouble on it.
“He may slow it down, but he ain’t stopping it,” James said. “That means you’d have to police in every station and that’s just not possible.” it is unclear what familiarity James had with the New York subway system, but witnesses at the scene described the attacker wearing gear that disguised him as a subway worker.
This comes as Adams is facing major challenges in getting violent crime under control in New York. According to NYPD figures, although murders have ticked down other major crimes including rape, robbery, felonius assault, burglary and grand larceny have increased sharply.
"We're facing a problem that is hitting our entire nation right now and that is why this is a national response," Adams said. "We need a national response to this issue."