UPDATE: Suspect in Brooklyn subway shooting called in tip, sources say

Frank James was arrested without incident in Manhattan’s East Village

Originally Posted: Apr 13, 22 03:58 ET

Updated: Apr 13, 22 4:59 PM ET

By Brynn Gingras, Shimon Prokupecz, Pervaiz Shallwani, Artemis Moshtaghian, Laura Ly, Kristina Sgueglia and Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) – The man suspected of shooting 10 people on a subway train in Brooklyn on Tuesday called Crime Stoppers which led to his capture on Wednesday, two law enforcement sources told CNN.

Frank James, 62, was arrested without incident by patrol officers in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

James called the tip and told authorities he was at a McDonald’s on the lower east side of Manhattan, the sources confirmed.

The tip indicated the suspect was at a McDonald’s restaurant on 6th Street and 1st Avenue, a police official said at a news conference earlier Wednesday. Officers didn’t find him there, but spotted him just around the corner, according to the official.

LIVE UPDATES: Brooklyn subway station shooting

James is suspected of detonating smoke grenades and shoot 33 times with a handgun on a crowded N train heading for the 36th Street station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. The attack left 29 injured, including 10 who were shot, although none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, officials said. Five of the victims were young people on their way to school, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said.

The motive for the shooting is not yet known.

James was charged by complaint in federal court in Brooklyn with violating a law prohibiting terrorist attacks and other violent attacks on a public transportation system, according to Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

If found guilty, he could spend life in prison, Peace said.

James will have his first appearance Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

James is represented by federal defender Mia Eisner-Grynberg, according to his criminal record. CNN reached out to her for comment.

James has had nine prior arrests in New York dating from 1992 to 1998, including possession of burglary tools, a criminal sex act and robbery, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said. He also had three arrests in New Jersey in 1991, 1992 and 2007 for trespassing, theft and disorderly conduct, Essig said.

The arrest came hours after authorities elevated James from ‘person of interest’ to suspect in the shooting and less than a day after authorities launched a manhunt for his whereabouts . Earlier Wednesday, the city issued an emergency alert to residents saying James was “wanted” and asking the public for advice.

The subway shooting represents a long-dreaded nightmare scenario for New York City, which relies heavily on its public transit system. Subway ridership collapsed during the Covid pandemic as many workers stayed home and ridership did not return to pre-pandemic levels, in part due to mistrust of an increase in violence on the public transport system.

The photo gallery below contains graphic images. Viewer discretion recommended.

How investigators focused on James

At a press conference on Wednesday, officials outlined some of James’ actions before the attack and the evidence linking him to the scene.

James boarded the N subway train at Kings Highway station around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Essig said. After opening fire on the train, he got off at the 36th Street station, boarded an R train on the platform and drove to the 25th Street station stop, declared Essig.

Less than an hour later, he was spotted boarding the subway at the 7th Avenue and 9th Street station, about 1.5 miles away, Essig said.

Investigators who scoured the scene of the shooting found a 9mm Glock handgun, three extended magazines, two detonated smoke grenades, two undetonated smoke grenades, a hatchet and the keys to a U-Haul pickup truck, said Essig. Witnesses also described the suspect as a burly black man wearing a neon construction jacket.

The weapon found at the scene was purchased by James in Ohio in 2011, Essig said Wednesday. A credit card used to rent the U-Haul was also found, two law enforcement sources told CNN. Two officials told CNN they believe the gun got stuck during the shooting.

The U-Haul van was rented by James, police said. The van was recovered near Kings bus station, and surveillance video shows James leaving on Tuesday morning, according to a criminal complaint. The neon construction jacket, which had been dumped on the subway platform, had a receipt for a storage unit in Philadelphia registered in James’s name, the complaint states.

Federal prosecutors believe he visited the warehouse full of ammunition and other weapons the day before Tuesday’s attack, according to court documents.

On Tuesday, authorities executed a court-authorized warrant to search the storage facility and found “9mm ammunition, a threaded 9mm pistol barrel that allows for the attachment of a silencer or suppressor, targets and .223 caliber ammunition, which is used with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle”, among others.

According to the complaint, law enforcement executed a search warrant at a Philadelphia apartment. Authorities believe James rented for 15 days from around March 28 and found “an empty magazine for a Glock handgun, a taser, a high-capacity rifle magazine and a blue smoke bomb.” can.

Investigators found no other weapons or explosives in the van, two law enforcement officials said. Officials said it appeared James may have slept in the vehicle. They said a license plate reader detected the van crossing the Verrazzano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Authorities also tracked the purchase of a gas mask from James through an eBay account, two officials said.

His family did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

How did the filming go

People aboard the carriage on Tuesday morning said smoke filled the carriage and gunshots rang out, forcing people to make their way to the other side of the train in panic and confusion.

Hourari Benkada, 27, who was shot in the back of the neck, said he thought he was sitting next to the shooter.

Speaking from a hospital bed on Tuesday, Benkada said he got into the last car of the N train and sat next to a man with a sports bag who appeared to be wearing an MTA vest. The man detonated a “smoke bomb”, said Benkada, housekeeping manager at the New Yorker hotel.

“And all you see (is) smoke – black smoke … going away and then people rushing back,” Benkada said. “This pregnant woman was in front of me. I was trying to help her. I didn’t know there had been gunshots at first. I just thought it was a black smoke bomb.

“She said, ‘I’m pregnant with a baby.’ I kissed her. And then the butt rush continued. I was pushed, and that’s when I was shot in the back of the knee.

The shooting began about 20 seconds after the train departed the 59th Street station and lasted nearly 2 minutes, Benkada said. Benkada heard other people in pain, but couldn’t see them or the suspect because of the smoke, he said.

Claire Tunkel, 46, who was in the subway car where the shooting took place, described the scene as chaotic. She said she couldn’t see anything because of the smoke, but she heard people screaming for help and others saying they were bleeding.

“You couldn’t see anything, but you could feel it,” she said. People were rushing to the front of the car and some fell to the ground, she said. “You could smell the bodies.”

She took off her jacket and tied it around the leg of a man with a gunshot wound, she told CNN. Tunkel, who later went to hospital for smoke inhalation, said several victims were lying on the floor of the subway platform after the train arrived at the station.

Suspect spoke of mass shootings in videos

James has been linked to several rambling videos posted on a YouTube channel. A screenshot from one of the videos was used on an NYPD Crimestoppers flyer seeking information about the shooting.

He has documented his journey from Wisconsin to the northeast on a series of videos in recent weeks.

James spoke of violence and mass shootings in the videos, including a post Monday in which he said he thought about killing people who presumably injured him.

“I’ve been through a lot of bullshit, where I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to see people die right in front of my fucking face immediately. But I thought about, hey man, I don’t want to go to a fucking jail,” he said.

In another video posted last week, James speaks out against abuse in churches and racism in the workplace, using misogynistic and racist language. Many of the videos James uploaded included references to violence, including a defined group of people he believed had slandered him, in addition to broad social and racial groups he seemed to loathe.

In another video posted last month on the same channel, James said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress. In this video, James said he left his home in Milwaukee on March 20. During the eastward journey, he said he was heading into the “danger zone”.

“You know, of course it triggers a lot of negative thoughts,” he said in the video. “I have a severe case of post-traumatic stress.”

In a video posted in February, he also criticized a plan by the The Adams administration to fight security and homelessness in the metro in part due to an increased presence of mental health professionals. In a racist and rambling recording, James called the new effort “doomed” and described his own negative experience with city health workers during a “mental health crisis in the 90s, 80 and 70”.

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