NEW YORK — The man charged in the Brooklyn subway shooting is expected to make his first appearance in federal court Thursday after a more than 24-hour hunt led to his arrest the day before.
Frank R. James, 62, was charged with a terrorist or other violent attack against a mass transportation system and will appear before US Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann in Brooklyn, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
James is accused of carrying out the attack that left at least 29 people injured, including 10 with gunshot wounds, after he donned a gas mask, threw smoke grenades and opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N train around 8:30 am Tuesday, authorities say.
The shooting set off a search for James who fled via another train at the Sunset Park subway station, police said, and evaded capture for more than a day.
NIGHTMARE ON THE N TRAIN:Inside the terrifying moments during the Brooklyn subway shooting
New York City Police Department patrol officers arrested him Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan’s East Village after a tip came into the department’s “crime stoppers” line. According to law enforcement officials who weren’t authorized to comment publicly, it was who James called the “crime stoppers” line to report he was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan.
“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a Wednesday news conference.
James will be represented by federal defenders who were appointed to him Wednesday, according to records filed in federal court. At the hearing Thursday, a judge will inform James of the charges against him, but it’s unclear whether he will enter a plea. James faces life in prison if convicted.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT FRANK JAMES:Suspect arrested in the Brooklyn subway shooting
James was previously charged in ’90s with making terrorist threats in New Jersey
James had been arrested in Essex County, New Jersey, 27 years ago for making terrorist threats, according to the prosecutor’s office.
At the time, James, now 62, was charged with making terrorist threats during an incident in Fairfield, said Katherine Carter, a spokesperson for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. In the 1995 matter, James was convicted of the lesser charge of harassment and sentenced to probation for one year.
James had at least nine prior arrests in New York and at least three in New Jersey, NYPD said.
—Nicholas Katzban, NorthJersey.com
James arrived in New York City on day of attack, had gasoline and torch on train, complaint says
After James rented a U-Haul van in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon, police surveillance cameras captured photos of him entering Brooklyn on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge after 4 am Tuesday, according to an unsealed federal criminal complaint. The U-Haul crossed state lines from Pennsylvania to New Jersey then onto New York, the complaint says.
When James arrived in Brooklyn, he parked within blocks of an N train subway station, and surveillance video showed him walking in an orange work coat and yellow construction hat as he carried a backpack and pulled another bag along with him, the complaint says.
‘NOTHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS HERE’:Subway attack shocks Sunset Park, a hub for working-class immigrants
After the shooting, a surveillance camera captured an image of James, exiting the subway one stop north the 36th Street Station, the complaint says. NYPD previously said James reentered the subway in Park Slope after the shooting.
Police recovered the work jacket along with other items from the scene, including a plastic gas container, a torch, a U-Haul key, multiple bank cards, fireworks and a firearm – a Glock 17 that James legally purchased in Ohio with its serial number apparently attempted to be defaced.
Police also executed search warrants at a storage unit and apartment James had rented and found additional ammo and magazines, including for a rifle. No rifle was found but the complain says James may have had “access to additional firearms.”
Investigators still seeking motive in attack
Days after the shooting, police have provided few clues as to what prompted the gunman to open fire.
The unsealed criminal complaint mentions James’ YouTube videos, which police in New York had previously referenced.
In one video, James mentions Mayor Adams and people experiencing homelessness on the city’s subway trains, according to the court document. “What are you doing, brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation?” James said, referring to the mayor.
James also threatened violence in his videos, including saying he wanted to shoot up a subway train, according to the complaint.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY earlier this week that authorities were reviewing several social media pages, including YouTube videos appearing to feature James discussing a variety of issues from Black rights and slavery to a mass shooting in Sacramento, California, and the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
How James’ arrest unfolded
About 30 hours after the carnage on the subway, James called the city’s “crime stoppers” line to report he was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan, law enforcement officials said. He told them to come and get him, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
But when officers got to the location, he was not at the restaurant, said NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey.
“They start driving around the neighborhood looking for him. They see him on the corner of St. Mark’s (Place) and First (Avenue), and they take him into custody,” Corey said.
HOW THE ARREST OCCURRED:‘Everyday New Yorkers’ say they helped police find Brooklyn shooting suspect
Meanwhile, Zach Tahhan said he was repairing a camera system at Saifee Hardware and Garden Store, just a few doors down from the McDonalds, when he noticed someone who appeared to be James walking by. A manager at the store, Frank Puebla, was outside with him. They looked at one another and knew it was the man whose face had been plastered across the news and online.
“My eyes went just to his face and I noticed that was the guy,” Puebla said in an interview inside the store.
They saw a nearby police car and flagged officers. “Yo! This is the guy!” Tahhan said he yelled to police. The pair watched in disbelief as officers detained James.
Police did not say where James had been after the attack and before his capture.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Swapna Venugopal, Kevin McCoy and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press