Police arrested the man they say committed the horrific Brooklyn subway shooting after a 30-hour manhunt Wednesday.
Cops cuffed Frank Robert James, 62, in the East Village for the attack on a Manhattan-bound N train at 36th Street station in Sunset Park on the morning of April 12 that injured 23, including 10 who suffered gunshot wounds.
He will face federal terrorism charges in Brooklyn Thursday with the prospect of life behind bars, according to prosecutors.
“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him,” said Mayor Eric Adams, who joined a press conference with law enforcement brass at police headquarters virtually Wednesday afternoon, while still isolating at Gracie Mansion due to his COVID-19 infection.
“We’re going to protect the people of this city and apprehend those who believe they can bring terror to everyday New Yorkers,” Hizzoner added.
NYPD got a tip from bystanders that James was at a McDonald’s on 1st Avenue and E. 6th Street Wednesday afternoon, but when the Boys in Blue arrived he was already gone, so they circled the area until they picked him up off the street near 1st Avenue and St. Marks Place, law enforcement officials said.
James will be arraigned at Brooklyn Federal Court on April 14 facing terrorism charges for attacking mass transit riders and traveling across state lines to do so, and if convicted could be sentenced to life in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Breon Peace.
James allegedly got on the Manhattan-bound N train at Kings Highway early Tuesday morning and when the train pulled into 36th Street station just before 8:30 a.m., he put on a gas mask, pulled canisters out of his bag that filled the subway car with smoke, and fired 33 shots at straphangers.
Dramatic footage from the scene shows smoke billowing out of the train car as coughing riders run out and wounded commuters hobble onto the platform, with blood stains covering the ground.
James apparently got off the train with his victims and boarded an R train on the opposite side of the platform alongside them, riding it one stop north to 25th Street station where he slipped away and out of the underground transit system, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig.
Cameras at the Sunset Park station were malfunctioning at the time, but, according to Essig, police were able to find surveillance footage of James getting into the 7th Avenue stop on the F and G train in Park Slope at around 9:15 a.m.
When pressed repeatedly about the Sunset Park camera outages, MTA chief Janno Lieber told 1010 WINS in an interview that “a couple of cameras” are out regularly across the MTA’s network of almost 10,000 cameras at its 472 subway stations, including nearly 600 on the Brooklyn section of the N line alone, but he claimed it wasn’t a systemic issue.
“It’s not a systemic problem,” Lieber said Wednesday afternoon. “There are going to be a couple of cameras out any one day. It is after all the internet era, we all know about that.”
Police were able to zero in on James after finding a debit card and a U-Haul key at the crime scene, which they traced to a rental van parked just blocks from the King Highway stop where he got on, according to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
The search included NYPD and several federal agencies, such as the FBI and the ATF.
“We used every resource at our disposal to gather and process significant evidence that directly links Mr. James to the shooting,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell told reporters during the briefing at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon. “We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run.”
According to the court documents, James was born in New York City and more recently lived in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
He had nine prior arrests in New York and there in New Jersey in the 1990s and one in 2007, including possession of burglary tools, criminal sex act, and theft of service, according to Essig.
He rented the U-Haul in the City of Brotherly Love on Monday, April 11, a day before the attack, and the vehicle was caught on surveillance cameras crossing the Verrazzano Bridge into Brooklyn on Tuesday at 4:11 a.m., according to the legal filings.
About two hours later at 6:12 a.m., surveillance cameras at W. 7th Street and Kings Highway caught James in an neon orange jacket and a yellow hard hat rolling his bag toward the subway station.
Cops later found that rolling cart at the crime scene, along with a Glock 17 9 millimeter handgun with three extended magazines, four smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline, a bag of fireworks, and a hobby fuse.
The gun was bought from a licensed firearm dealer in Ohio in 2011, and James was able to buy the weapon because he didn’t have any felony convictions.
Investigators were able to tie James to a Philadelphia storage facility, where they found more 9 millimeter ammunition, a barrel allowing for a silencer to be attached, targets, and .223 caliber ammo, which is used with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, according to the complaint, but they have not found any rifle.
James had posted dozens of videos on YouTube which included profanity- and racial slur-laden tirades filled with conspiracies.
He also singled out Mayor Adams and criticized his handling of homeless people seeking in the subway, and at one point threatened violence in the lengthy online posts.
“What are you doing, brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation?,” he said along with, “Every car I went to wa[s] loaded with homeless people. It was so bad, I couldn’t even stand.”
“And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherf—ers,” he also said in one of the videos, according to the complaint.
His YouTube channel has since been terminated.
The rants led NYPD to tighten Mayor Adams’s security detail Tuesday.