The man, arrested on Wednesday in the shooting of 10 people on the Brooklyn subway, was charged with a federal crime of terrorism a day after the attack on a crowded train at rush hour.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Pease announced the indictment against 62-year-old Frank R. James at an afternoon press conference. James had been detained in Manhattan’s East Village shortly before.
Law enforcement found James after police received a tip-off on his whereabouts.
James is accused of the attack on Tuesday morning, which left five people in critical condition, although all 10 victims were expected to survive. The indictment against him carries a sentence of life imprisonment.
Police initially said on Tuesday that James had been wanted for questioning because he had rented a van, possibly linked to the attack, but they were not sure if he was responsible for the shooting.
People were getting in and out of a Brooklyn subway station on Wednesday after a man shot many people. Ten people were shot, but all are expected to survive. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
In recent months, James has criticized online videos about racism and violence in the United States and his experience with mental health care in New York.
In some videos, he criticized New York Mayor Eric Adams’ policy on mental health and subway safety.
Lots of evidence
The gunman fired smoke grenades into a crowded subway car and then fired at least 33 shots with a 9mm pistol, police said. Five victims of firearms are in critical condition, but all 10 wounded in the shooting are expected to survive. At least a dozen others who escaped gunshot wounds were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.
The shooter escaped the chaos, but left behind numerous clues, including a pistol, ammunition stores, an ax, smoke grenades, gasoline and a U-Haul van key.
This key led investigators to James, a native of New York, who had newer addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin.
Federal investigators found that the gun used in the shooting was purchased by James at a pawn shop – a licensed firearms dealer – in the Columbus, Ohio area, in 2011, a law enforcement official said.
WATCH Witnesses describe a chaotic scene:
Witnesses to a Brooklyn subway shooting describe a chaotic scene
Scenes of chaos erupted aboard a Brooklyn subway train at rush hour on Tuesday morning after a gunman opened fire and lit a smoke box, injuring at least two dozen people. 3:09
The van was found, unoccupied, near the station, where investigators found that the shooter had entered the subway system. No explosives or firearms were found in the van, a police officer said. Police found other items, including pillows, suggesting he may have slept or planned to sleep in the van, the official said.
Investigators believe James came from Philadelphia on Monday and viewed a video of an observation showing a man matching his physical description getting out of the van early Tuesday morning, the official said. Another video shows James entering a Brooklyn subway station with a large bag, the official said.
Publications on social networks
In addition to analyzing James’ financial and telephone records, investigators watched hours of wandering, full of swearing videos posted by James on YouTube and other social media platforms – full of violent language and fanatical comments, some against other blacks – while trying to discern a motive.
In a video released the day before the attack, James criticized the crimes against blacks and said drastic action was needed.
“You have children coming in here, taking machine guns and mowing down innocent people,” says James. “It won’t work until we do better,” he said, adding that he believes things will only change if certain people are “trampled, kicked and tortured” by their “comfort zone.”
James is set to be arrested on Wednesday. The federal crime of terrorism sentenced him to life in prison. (Meredith Goldberg / Associated Press)
In another video, he says: “This nation was born into violence, is kept alive by violence or the threat of violence, and will die a violent death. Nothing will stop this. “
Police Commissioner Kitchent Sewell called the posts “relevant” and officials stepped up security for Adams, who had already been isolated after a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday.
Several of James’ videos mention the subways of New York. A February 20 video said the mayor and governor’s plan to tackle homelessness and security in the subway system “is doomed to failure” and is mentioned as a “victim” of the city’s mental health programs. A January 25 video criticizes Adams’ plan to end gun violence.
Frank Robert James had nowhere else to run or hide – and is now in NYPD custody. The work of our detectives is unsurpassed and the dedication of our patrol officers never ends. pic.twitter.com/uOXliUvoJ7
The Brooklyn subway station, where passengers fled the smoky train in the attack, opened as usual on Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after the violence.
Traveler Jude Jacques, who takes train D to work as a fire safety director about two blocks from the shooting scene, said he prays every morning, but has a special request Wednesday.
“I said, ‘God, it’s all in your hands,'” Jacques said. “I was nervous and you can imagine why. Everyone is scared because it just happened.”