NYC subway shooting suspect arrested for transit violence | Top news
By Tyler Clifford, Jonathan Allen and Rami Ayyub
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The man suspected of setting off smoke bombs and spraying gunfire inside a New York City subway car, injuring 23 people, was arrested on Wednesday under the federal indictment of violently attacking a public transit system, capping an around-the-manhunt.
Frank Robert James, 62, was taken into police custody in lower Manhattan, about eight miles from the scene of Tuesday’s assault, after authorities determined his whereabouts using tips from residents, some of whom posted observations on social media, police said.
The New York Times and New York Post, each citing law enforcement sources, reported that James himself alerted police to his whereabouts on Wednesday in a call he made to a telephone line from a McDonald’s fast food restaurant. These news reports could not be independently verified by Reuters.
James’ arrest came 30 hours after an attack that erupted during the morning rush of commuters as the Manhattan-bound N line train stopped at a subway station in the Sunset Park community in Brooklyn, reigniting fears of violence in the city’s subway.
“My fellow New Yorkers, we got it. We got it,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference announcing the arrest. “We will protect the people of this city and apprehend those who believe they can terrorize ordinary New Yorkers.”
James, a Bronx native with recent addresses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, had previously been arrested nine times in New York and three in New Jersey, according to the New York Police Department (NYPD).
A 10-page criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn charges James with a single count of committing a terrorist attack or other violent attack on a public transportation system. If convicted, he faces life in prison, officials said.
He was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn said.
James is accused of setting off two smoke bombs inside a subway car moments before opening fire on other passengers with a semi-automatic handgun. The gun, purchased in 2011, was later recovered from the scene, along with three extended ammo magazines, a torch, a hatchet, a bag of fireworks and a can of gasoline, according to police documents and of the court.
Police said 10 people were hit by gunfire, including five in critical but stable condition on Wednesday. Thirteen other people were injured in the frantic race to flee the smoky train. All victims were expected to survive.
The attack was the latest in a string of violent crimes riling passengers on the largest metropolitan transit system in the United States, including instances of commuters being pushed onto subway tracks from station platforms. The issue posed a new challenge for Adams, who has pledged to help rebuild passenger numbers that have plunged during the coronavirus pandemic and ensure greater public safety.
Police say James was apprehended without incident in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan after he was spotted by bystanders who recognized him from wanted posters and passed on his location to authorities.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the guy,'” passerby Zack Dahhan told reporters of meeting the suspect before helping alert police in a patrol car near.
“He had a bag and was walking on the sidewalk,” Dahhan said. “I saw a lot of people coming up behind him. I said to people, ‘Please keep some space, this guy is going to do something.'”
Officers were first sent to a McDonald’s outlet based on a tip from the hotline, then widened their search around the restaurant until it was located nearby shortly after, said said the police.
YOUTUBE AND U-HAUL AS INDICATORS
Authorities told reporters they are still investigating James’ motive. One of the purposes of that investigation, according to an FBI affidavit in the case, was a number of YouTube videos he posted giving statements to the mayor of New York about homelessness and the subway system. .
A YouTube account apparently belonging to James was removed on Wednesday for violating the online video platform’s “community guidelines”, the company said.
Investigators initially linked James to the attack, according to the FBI affidavit, when a sweep of the crime scene in Brooklyn’s 36th Street subway station revealed a credit card in his name and the keys of a rented U-Haul van later found parked two blocks from an N-train stop.
In addition to items found at the subway station, searches of James’ apartment and a storage locker in Philadelphia uncovered other handgun and rifle magazines, ammunition, a Taser and a silencer gun barrel, the FBI said.
On Wednesday morning, with the shooter still at large, New Yorkers made their daily commutes, saying the violence gave them a break but did not lessen their need for public transportation.
“I was a little cautious but, well, we’re back to normal,” said passenger Matthew Mosk on an N train that had just passed through the 36th Street station. “NYC strong. Like it never happened.”
(Reporting by Tyler Clifford and Jonathan Allen in New York and Rami Ayyub in Washington; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Chris Gallagher and Katharine Jackson in Washington; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Grant McCool, Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.