Brooklyn subway shooting suspect arrested, faces terror charge

Frank R James, 62, is the sole suspect in a shooting on a Brooklyn subway train that injured at least 23 people.

left, and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, center, away from a police station in New York.
New York City Police and law enforcement officials lead subway shooting suspect Frank R James, centre, away from a police station in New York [Seth Wenig/AP Photo]

A man who was wanted in connection with a shooting on a New York City subway train has been apprehended after a 30-hour manhunt, officials announced.

Frank R James was taken into custody in the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

“We hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the city of New York,” Sewell told reporters during a news conference.

The attack on Tuesday morning sent shock waves across the United States’ largest city, where millions of people take the subway every day.

An attacker set off smoke bombs aboard a subway train at around 8:30am local time (12:30 GMT), then opened fire with a handgun, shooting 23 times.

A combination photo shows Frank James
Frank R James faces a charge of committing a ‘terrorism’ attack on mass transportation [US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York/Handout via Reuters]

Ten people were injured by gunfire while another 13 were hurt by the smoke or in the panic to get out of the train following the shooting, New York authorities said. None of the gunshot injuries was life-threatening, officials said.

Police had released photographs and video of James – first named as a person of interest in the hours after the attack, then named a suspect by New York Mayor Eric Adams – and called on the public to come forward with any information.

“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him. We got him,” Adams said during the news conference on Wednesday. “We’re going to protect the people of this city and apprehend those who believe they can bring terror to everyday New Yorkers.”

James faces a federal charge of a “terrorism” attack on mass transportation, officials said, which carries a life sentence if convicted.

Police said the 62-year-old fired a semiautomatic handgun on Tuesday that was later recovered at the scene, along with three extended-ammunition magazines, a hatchet, some consumer-grade fireworks and a container of gasoline or petrol.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from New York, said James’s arrest was “a huge sigh of relief for millions of New Yorkers who have been very … anxious all day”.

Elizondo noted “there is no obvious motive” for the attack so far, as the investigation into what occurred is ongoing. “But that is clearly what’s going to be on everyone’s mind: ‘What would drive someone to do this?'” he said.

James was apprehended after being spotted by bystanders who posted pictures of him to social media that alerted police, local media reported. Authorities also received a phone call from a citizen to the Crime Stoppers tip line.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) determined that James had purchased the gun used in the attack in 2011, John DeVito, the top ATF official in New York, told reporters.

The New York Police Department said James, who has addresses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, had left keys to a rented U-Haul van at the crime scene in the 36th Street subway station, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighbourhood.


The van was found, unoccupied, near a station where investigators determined the gunman had entered the subway system.

An image from a surveillance camera located at West 7th Street and Kings Highway in Brooklyn shows a man carrying a backpack in his right hand and dragging a rolling bag in his left hand, as he leaves the U-Haul Vehicle.
An image from a surveillance camera located at West 7th Street and Kings Highway in Brooklyn was released by authorities [US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York/Handout via Reuters]

Investigators believe James drove to New York from Philadelphia on Monday. They have reviewed surveillance video showing a man matching his physical description coming out of the van early Tuesday morning, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press news agency.

Other video shows James entering a subway station in Brooklyn with a large bag, the official said.

In addition to analysing financial and telephone records connected to James, investigators were reviewing hours of rambling, profanity-filled videos James had posted on YouTube and other social media platforms as they tried to discern a motive.

In one video, posted a day before the attack, James criticises crime against Black people and says drastic action is needed. “You got kids going in here now taking machine guns and mowing down innocent people,” James says.

“It’s not going to get better until we make it better,” he said, adding that he thought things would only change if certain people were “stomped, kicked and tortured” out of their “comfort zone”.

James’ sister Catherine James Robinson said in an interview with the New York Times that he had “been on his own his whole life” and that she was surprised by the incident. “I don’t think he would do anything like that. That’s not in his nature to do anything like that,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies