Frank R. James, the alleged Brooklyn subway shooter who attacked N train riders at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park on Tuesday morning, was ordered held without bail following his arraignment on federal terrorism charges.
James, 62, was picked up Wednesday afternoon in the East Village following a 30-hour manhunt. After being brought to the 9th Precinct, he was quickly transferred into federal custody, and walked into the Brooklyn federal courthouse on the afternoon of April 14 for his first appearance in front of a judge, to answer for one of the worst crimes in the history of the subway system.
The suspect entered the courtroom wearing glasses, a mask, and a greyish-tan jumpsuit, and stayed silent during the proceedings, only nodding to answer questions. He was charged with committing a “terrorist attack against a mass transit system,” for which he could face the rest of his life in prison.
Federal prosecutors allege that James detonated smoke grenades and opened fire on board a Manhattan-bound N train entering the 36th Street station in Sunset Park just before 8:30 a.m. on April 12. He fired 33 rounds in all. Ten people were wounded by the gunfire and more than a dozen others were injured amid the panic; none of the injuries, however, were life-threatening.
James fled the scene, allegedly disembarking from the system at the following station, 25th Street, and was on the lam for more than a day until finally being captured in Manhattan, after the NYPD received a phone tip and James was spotted by eagle-eyed security worker Zack Tahhan. Investigators were hampered by the fact that surveillance cameras were not working in either the 36th or 25th Street stations.
Defense lawyers say that James himself made the call into the NYPD’s CrimeStoppers; Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell on Wednesday did not confirm whether the suspect had called the cops on himself.
James’ defense attorney, Mia Eisner-Grynberg of the Federal Defenders, asked Judge Roanne Mann that a psychiatric evaluation be conducted on her client at the federal prison, and for magnesium tablets to treat leg cramps. Both requests were granted.
Judge Mann ordered James held without bail in federal custody. In a detention memo, prosecutors deemed James a “severe and ongoing danger to the community and a serious risk of flight.”
Prosecutors argue that James’ attack was “entirely premeditated,” noting that he had donned a disguise as a construction worker when entering the subway in southern Brooklyn, and was carrying with him an arsenal that included smoke grenades, a Glock pistol, gasoline, fireworks, and a hatchet. He got out of his disguise after leaving the subway, the government says.
A U-Haul van rented by the suspect and a temporary residence in Philadelphia, which was raided by the FBI, found even more items of concern, including a propane tank, high-capacity magazines, and reams of ammunition. James also left behind a trove of YouTube videos where he went on a number of bizarre, often-racist rants, at times criticizing Mayor Eric Adams and in others making overtures to commit gun violence.
Following the arraignment, Eisner-Grynberg called the attack a “tragedy” but cautioned against a “rush to judgment.”
“What happened in the New York City subway system on Tuesday was a tragedy, and it’s a blessing that it was not worse,” she said. “We are all still learning about what happened on that train, and we caution against a rush to judgment.”
Eisner-Grynberg argued that when James called the police on himself, he was trying to “help.”
“What we do know is this: Yesterday, Mr. James saw his photograph on the news. He called CrimeStoppers to help. He told them where he was,” Eisner-Grynberg said. “Initial press and police reports in cases like this one are often inaccurate. Mr. James is entitled to a fair trial and we will ensure that he receives one.”
This is a developing story; check with amNY.com for further details.