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Shooting in New York: Details behind the 30-hour search for a suspect

Key, neon construction jacket, pistol.

The items left at a bloody crime scene at a Brooklyn subway station on Tuesday morning offered investigators some of their first clues as they worked to find out who opened fire on dozens of unsuspecting New Yorkers traveling to school and work.

Within hours, these discoveries led to an interesting man. And on Wednesday, as more evidence gathered, authorities identified the man as a suspect, urging the public to contact police if they saw him.

The suspected shooter reported himself and was arrested about an hour later, two law enforcement sources said.

Frank James, 62, has been charged in federal court with violating a law banning terrorist and other violent attacks on the public transportation system, a U.S. prosecutor said. James is said to have fired at least 33 shots, hitting 10 people, authorities said. The motive is still unknown, officials said. CNN turned to James’ federal attorney for comment.

Here’s how authorities gathered evidence to identify the suspected shooter – and what led to his arrest.


Investigative credit cards found at the scene offered a key piece of the puzzle they were assigned to solve.

The card was used to rent a U-Haul van, which authorities believe was linked to the shooting, two law enforcement sources said. NYPD’s internal emails, reviewed by CNN on Tuesday, did not say how authorities thought the van was connected. In the emails, senior commanders shared an image of a white U-Haul van and asked officers to search for a similar vehicle with an Arizona license plate.

The van was found in Brooklyn on Tuesday, law enforcement officials told CNN.

He was about three blocks from Kings Highway, where footage shows the suspect entering the subway on Tuesday morning before the shooting, said NYPD Detective Chief James Essig.

“The key to this truck was found at the crime scene,” Esig told a news conference Wednesday. U-Haul records show that James rented the van on Monday afternoon, according to a criminal complaint. Surveillance footage shows a man wearing a “yellow helmet, orange work jacket … carrying a backpack in his right hand and dragging a rolling bag in his left hand” leaving the car on foot early Tuesday morning on West 7th Street and Kings Highway in Brooklyn, according to the complaint.

No weapons or explosives were found in the van, law enforcement officials said on Wednesday. There was leftover food in the vehicle, and it appears James may have slept in it, sources said. A reader of the license plates intercepted the van traveling on the Verazzano Bridge in Brooklyn, from Staten Island, around 4 am on Tuesday, law enforcement officials said.

A black cart with which the suspect was seen on video was also found at the crime scene, Esig said. It was the same with the orange jacket, he added. A construction helmet the suspect was seen wearing was found in a trash can, Esig said.

The shooting happened around 8:24 a.m., officials said.

Authorities also found a 9mm Glock pistol, three extended magazines, two smoke grenades and two unexploded and axes at the scene, Esig said on Tuesday. Two officers said they believed the gun was stuck during the shooting.

The gun had scratch marks, and prosecutors said they believed it was an attempt to “decolorize the serial number”, according to court documents. It was purchased by James in Ohio in 2011, Esig said.

By Tuesday night, authorities had drawn up a rough outline of what had happened on the subway train earlier in the day: after boarding train N – which starts at Kings Highway – the suspect opened two boxes “that emit smoke into the subway car,” the commissioner said. New York police officer Kichant Sewell on Tuesday night.

He then allegedly shot dead several people as the train stopped at 36th Street Subway Station in Sunset Park, Sewell said. Images taken by witnesses show the chaos and panic in those moments: one video shows smoke coming from the car where the shooting took place while screams were heard, while another shows people getting off the subway train.

After claiming to have opened fire on the train, the suspect boarded train R and went to a stop at 25th Street station, Esig told a news conference on Wednesday.

Less than an hour later, around 9:15 a.m., he was spotted taking the subway at 7th Avenue and 9th Street in nearby Slope Park, Esig added.


When the NYPD posted a message on Twitter Wednesday morning asking for James’ whereabouts, they included a screenshot of one of several YouTube videos to which the suspect is linked.

The videos discuss violence, mass shootings and mental health, often indiscriminately, and offer a glimpse into the journey James took before the attack.

Many of the videos uploaded by James include references to violence, including in a group of people he believes have disgraced him, in addition to broad social and racial groups he seems to hate.

In a video released in February, he criticized New York Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to tackle safety and homelessness in the subway system, in part through an expanded presence of mental health staff, saying the effort was “doomed to failure.” “. He described his own negative experiences with urban health workers during the “mental health crisis of the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s”.

In a video uploaded last month, James spoke of post-traumatic stress disorder and said he left Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 20 and traveled east, saying he was heading for the “danger zone”. Preliminary information shows that James mentioned homelessness, New York and its mayor in online publications, Sewell said on Tuesday.

The videos show that he arrived in Philadelphia around March 25 after several stops.

Federal prosecutors believe James visited a warehouse in Philadelphia that was full of ammunition and more weapons the night before the attack, according to court documents. A receipt related to the facility was found in the jacket found at the scene of the shooting.

Authorities complied with a court-ordered search warrant Tuesday and found ammunition and a “barrel of a pistol that allows a silencer or suppression mechanism to be attached,” among other things, according to the complaint.

Authorities also conducted a search warrant for a Philadelphia apartment that James said had rented for just over two weeks, beginning March 28, and found “an empty Glock pistol magazine, an electric shocker, a high-capacity rifle magazine and a box for blue smoke, “the complaint said.


James was detained about 30 hours after the shooting. He called Crime Stoppers on Wednesday and essentially said he had seen his face in the news and knew he was wanted, two law enforcement sources told CNN.

He said he was at McDonald’s on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, sources said. He told the operator he would be at the restaurant to charge his phone, a senior law enforcement source said. A moment later, the call ended.

But another call to 911 was made by a man who believed he had spotted James, one source told CNN.

Patrol officers arrived at McDonald’s and managed to find James in the block shortly after passers-by pointed them out, a senior law enforcement source said.

Investigators are now reviewing camera footage to try to build a timeline for where the suspected shooter was between the last time he was spotted in Park Slope on Tuesday and the time he was arrested on Wednesday, the source said. by law enforcement to CNN.

The investigation is ongoing, officials said.