Frank James, 62, was arrested without incident on the street around 1:40 p.m. after police received a signal from their Crime Stoppers hotline, New York Police Commissioner Kichant Sewell said.
“My colleagues from New York: We took it. We took it, “said Mayor Eric Adams.
The motive for the shooting is still unknown.
James has been charged in a Brooklyn federal court with violating a law banning terrorist and other violent attacks on the public transportation system, according to Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney General for New York’s Eastern District. He will be indicted in federal court in Brooklyn and, if convicted, could spend a lifetime in prison, Peace said.
James is represented by federal attorney Mia Eisner-Greenberg, according to his criminal record. CNN approached her for comment.
James had nine previous arrests in New York from 1992 to 1998, including possession of tools for burglary, sexual intercourse and theft of services, said NYPD chief of detectives James Essig. He also had three arrests in New Jersey in 1991, 1992 and 2007 for border violations, theft and hooliganism, Esig said.
The arrest came hours after officers lifted James from a “person of interest” to a suspect in the shooting, and less than a day after authorities began searching for his whereabouts. Earlier Wednesday, the city issued an urgent signal to residents, saying James was “wanted” and asking the public for advice.
The council to the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline said the suspect was at a McDonald’s restaurant on 6th Street and 1st Avenue, a police officer said. Officers did not find him there, but spotted him just around the corner.
The subway shooting has long been a dangerous nightmare for New York, which relies heavily on its public transportation system. The subway trip crashed during the Covid pandemic, as many workers stayed home and passengers did not return to pre-pandemic levels, in part because of caution over increasing violence in the transit system.
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How investigators intervened in James
At a news conference Wednesday, officials outlined some of James’ actions before the attack and the evidence linking him to the scene.
James boarded train N on the Kings subway station on Tuesday around 8:30 a.m., Esig said. After opening fire on the train, he got off at 36th Street Station, boarded an R train across the platform and went to a stop at 25th Street Station, Esig said.
Less than an hour later, he was spotted taking the subway at 7th Avenue and 9th Street, about 2.5 miles away, Esig said.
Investigators found a 9mm Glock pistol, three extended magazines, two smoke grenades, two unexploded smoke grenades, an ax and U-Haul van keys, Esig said. Witnesses also described the suspect as a fat black man wearing a neon construction jacket.
The gun found at the scene was purchased by James in Ohio in 2011, Esig said on Wednesday. A credit card used to rent U-Haul was also found, two law enforcement sources told CNN. Two officers told CNN they believed the gun was stuck during the shooting.
The U-Haul van was rented by James, police said. The van was found near the Kings Highway, and video surveillance shows James leaving on Tuesday morning, according to a criminal complaint. The neon construction jacket that was dumped on the subway platform had a Philadelphia warehouse receipt registered to James, the complaint said.
According to court documents, federal prosecutors believe he visited the vault full of ammunition and more weapons the night before Tuesday’s attack.
On Tuesday, authorities carried out a court-ordered search warrant for the warehouse and found “9mm ammunition, 9mm threaded pistol barrel that allows attachment of silencer or suppressor, targets and .223 caliber ammunition used with AR-15 semi-automatic rifle “, among other things.
According to the complaint, law enforcement officers have complied with a search warrant for an apartment in Philadelphia, authorities believe James was hired for 15 days, beginning March 28, and found “an empty Glock pistol magazine, stun gun, high-capacity rifle magazine and blue smoke.” container”.
Investigators found no other weapons or explosives in the van, two law enforcement officials said. Officials said it appears James may have slept in the vehicle. They said a license plate reader spotted a van traveling on the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Authorities have also tracked the purchase of a gas mask for James through an eBay account, two officials said.
His family did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
How did the shooting develop?
People on board the car on Tuesday morning said smoke had filled the car and shots were heard, causing people to make their way to the other side of the train in panic and confusion.
Hurari Bencada, 27, who was shot in the back of the knee, said he thought he was sitting next to the shooter.
Speaking from a hospital bed on Tuesday, Bencada said he boarded the last car of train N and sat next to a man with a luggage bag who appeared to be wearing an MTA vest. The man dropped a “smoke bomb”, said Benkada, head of the household at the New Yorker Hotel.
“And all you see is smoke – black smoke … it comes out and then people rush in from behind,” Bencada said. “This pregnant woman was in front of me. I was trying to help her. At first I didn’t know there were shots. I just thought it was a black smoke bomb.
“She said, ‘I’m pregnant with a baby.’ I hugged her. And then the collision continued. I was pushed and then shot in the back of my knee. ”
The shooting began about 20 seconds after the train took off from 59th Street Station and was felt to have lasted nearly two minutes, Bencada said. Benkada heard other people in pain, but could not see them or the suspects because of the smoke, he said.
Claire Tunkel, 46, who was in the subway car where the shooting took place, described the scene as chaotic. She said she could not see anything because of the smoke, but she heard people calling for help and others saying they were bleeding.
“You couldn’t see anything, but you could feel it,” she said. People rushed to the front of the car and some fell to the ground, she said. He could feel the bodies.
She took off her jacket and tied it around the leg of a man who received a gunshot wound, she told CNN. Tunkel, who later went to the hospital to inhale smoke, said several victims were lying on the floor of the subway platform after the train arrived at the station.
The suspect talks about mass shootings in videos
James is linked to a number of shuffled videos posted on a YouTube channel. A screenshot of one of the videos was used on a NYPD Crimestoppers flyer for information about the shooting.
He has documented his trip from Wisconsin to the Northeast through a series of videos in recent weeks.
James spoke of violence and mass shootings in the videos, including one uploaded on Monday in which he said he was thinking of killing people who may have hurt him.
“I went through a lot of nonsense where I could say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to watch people die right in front of my fucking face. But I thought about the fact that, hey, man, I don’t want to go to any fucking prison, “he said.
In another video released last week, James talks about church abuse and racism in the workplace using misogynistic and racist language. Many of the videos James uploaded included references to violence, including a group of people he thought had disgraced him, in addition to broad social and racial groups he seemed to hate.
In another video posted last month on the same channel, James said he had post-traumatic stress disorder. In this video, James said he left his home in Milwaukee on March 20. During the trip east, he said he was heading for the “danger zone”.
“You know, it provokes a lot of negative thoughts, of course,” he said in the video. “I have a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In a video released in February, he also criticized the Adams administration’s plan to address subway safety and homelessness, in part through an expanded presence of mental health professionals. In a racist and messy recording, James called the new effort “doomed to failure” and described his own negative experience with urban health workers during the “mental health crisis of the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s.”
Mark Morales of CNN, Rob Frechet, Sonia Moge, Sharif Paget, Carol Alvarado, Nicole Chavez, Ala Elasar, Amir Vera, Travis Caldwell, Jason Hannah, Peter Nikias, Ion Pomrenze, Elizabeth Wolfe, Chris Boehter, David Murphy, Juan Alejandro Olarte-Cortes, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Librand contributed to this report.