Accused subway terrorist Frank James conducted a test run a day before his attack by tossing smoke grenades at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, police sources said Thursday.
An 80-year-old man reported that he noticed a white U-Haul van and smoke emanating from behind Hangar 2 at Floyd Bennett Field around noon Monday, less than 24 hours before the rampage that wounded 29 people – 10 of whom were shot, according to police sources.
He initially dismissed the sighting, thinking kids were playing around, the sources said.
But after the attack, the witness connected the dots and returned to Floyd Bennett Field, where he reported his sighting to US Park Police, the sources said.
Authorities then reached out to the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, who contacted the NYPD around noon Wednesday – about two hours before James was arrested at First Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in the Manhattan’s East Village, according to the sources.
Four spent smoke grenades were recovered from Floyd Bennett Field, the sources said.
Two sources confirmed that James was the person who had been testing the devices at the airfield.
James was busted Wednesday by the NYPD in Manhattan’s East Village after he called the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline and told police to come and get him at a local McDonald’s restaurant.
Federal prosecutors hit him with a charge of committing terrorist attacks and other violence against mass transportation systems, which could send him to prison for life if he’s convicted.
In the initial aftermath of the attack, cops had trouble tracking down James because surveillance cameras at the 36th Street station where the incident occurred had malfunctioned.
They later determined James had blended in with commuters and took an R train to the next stop at 25th Street, where cameras also weren’t working.
The alleged shooter, who’d previously been staying in an Airbnb in Philadelphia and also has ties to Wisconsin, drove a U-Haul truck into the Big Apple around 4 am Tuesday.
Surveillance footage captured him going over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and driving into Brooklyn, where the U-Haul he’d rented on April 6 was found abandoned in Gravesend, court records show.
James is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.