Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Alleged Brooklyn subway shooter Frank R. James held without bail after court appearance

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — Frank R. James, the man who allegedly donned a gas mask, released a smoke bomb and opened fire on a crowded subway train in Brooklyn, will remain in federal custody after briefly appearing in federal court Thursday.

He did not enter a plea and was ordered held on a permanent order of detention, though the judge did not preclude a future bail application.

Assistant US Attorney Sara Winik told the judge that the 62-year-old James, who was taken into custody Wednesday after being found wandering around the East Village and may have called police on himself, terrified the entire city.

“The defendant, terrifyingly, opened fire on passengers on a crowded subway train, interrupting their morning commute in a way this city hasn’t seen in more than 20 years,” she said. “The defendant’s attack was premeditated, it was carefully planned, and it caused terror among the victims and our entire city. The defendant’s mother presence outside federal custody presents a serious risk of danger to the community and he should be detained pending trial.”

The judge agreed and denied James bail for the time being.

“The complaint speaks for itself,” he said.

RELATED | Frank R. James: What we know about Brooklyn subway shooting suspect

James’ court appointed lawyer, Mia Eisner-Grynberg, agreed to his being held without bail, for now, but could seek bail later on.

In a court filing ahead of his appearance, federal prosecutors called the shooting calculated and “entirely premeditated,” saying that James wore a hard hat and construction worker-style jacket as a disguise and then shed them after the gunfire to avoid recognition.

Prosecutors suggest James had the means to carry out more attacks, noting that he had ammunition and other gun-related items in a Philadelphia storage unit.

While James’s lengthy arrest record might seem “unremarkable,” they said it paints “a picture of a person with a penchant for defying authority and who is unable or unwilling to conform his conduct to law.”

Prosecutors called him a “severe and ongoing risk to the community.”

Eisner-Grynberg also asked for her client to undergo psychiatric evaluation and noted he suffers leg cramps. The lawyers agreed to a permanent order of detention, pending a possible future bail application.

James briefly spoke during the hearing.

Asked if he understood his rights, he said, “Yes.” Asked if he has seen the complaint, he said, “Yes, I have.” Asked if he understands the charge, he said, “Yes.”

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said James was spotted by bystanders in the area of ​​St. Marks Place and First Avenue, and that among the calls that came into Crime Stoppers was a person purporting to be the suspect himself.

According to police sources, James called the NYPD and told them that he was the man for whom police were looking and that he wanted to turn himself in.

“I think you’re looking for me,” the caller reportedly said. “I’m seeing my picture all over the news and I’ll be around this McDonalds.”

He was located nearby and taken into custody without incident.

“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “We got him.”

RELATED | Man who spotted subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, flagged down officers speaks out

James is charged under a federal statute that prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks in mass transit system. The federal government is also charging him with crossing state lines.

“We hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the city of New York,” Sewell said. “We used every resource at our disposal to gather and process significant evidence that directly links Mr. James to the shooting. We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run.”

Officials say the investigation remains ongoing, and they urge anyone with additional information to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

James will face life in prison if convicted in the attack, which left at least 29 people shot or otherwise injured, shaking a city already unnerved by a sharp rise in crime.

Officials said any potential motive remains unclear, but witnesses said the lone gunman was seen mumbling to himself while wearing a reflective vest before putting on the gas mask and removing a canister from his bag that then filled the car with smoke. He then began shooting.

Ten people were struck by bullets, while 19 others were either grazed or hurt in the chaos that followed.

None of the injuries were life-threatening, and authorities said a magazine that jammed in the gun may have saved lives.

RELATED | Brooklyn subway shooting heightens fears about transit safety

After the shooting, NYPD Chief of Detective James Essig said James boarded an R train that pulled into the station and went one stop before exiting at the 25th Street station. After that, James was seen again at a Park Slope subway stop just under an hour later before fading from view.

Authorities have discovered no meaningful felony arrests in James’ criminal history, only a number of misdemeanor charges. But James was known to the NYPD with a rap sheet spanning six years, 1992 to 1998, with nine prior arrests.

Profanity-laced social media posts from James seem to be highly critical of the mayor for his homeless policy, including videos filled with racist and sexist insults and rambling rants about Adams’ crackdown on people living in the subway.

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