Frank R. James, the suspect initially considered a “person of interest” in connection with the April 12 Brooklyn, N.Y. subway shooting that sent 23 people to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries (10 were shot and 13 were injured in the rush to get out of the 36 Street N Line station in Sunset Park or suffered from smoke inhalation or panic attacks) has been captured.
James was taken into custody after more than 24 hours into an expansive search that commenced after the attacked, which occurred during rush hour he morning of April 12. He was apprehended in Manhattan’s East Village following a Crime Stoppers tip and is expected to face a federal terrorism-related charge brought by prosecutors in Brooklyn’s Eastern District.
“According to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation, it appeared that Mr. James had called the police tip line on himself,” reported The New York Times, which quoted New York City Police Department Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell saying: “We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run.”
At 8:24 a.m. EDT, James was allegedly traveling on a Manhattan-bound N train and “opened two canisters that dispensed smoke throughout the subway car,” Sewell said during a press conference late on April 12, prior to James being identified as a person of interest. “He then shot multiple passengers as the train pulled into the 36th Street station in Sunset Park … As detectives processed the crime scene, they recovered a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, extended magazines, and a hatchet. Also found was a liquid we believe to be gasoline, and a bag containing consumer grade fireworks and a hobby fuse. … Detectives located a U-Haul van in Brooklyn that we believe is connected to the suspect.”
NYPD detectives, the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and the ATF, who Sewell said “have been instrumental in tracing the firearm and ballistics,” conducted the search.
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig, during the same press conference, described the suspect as “a dark-skinned male,” wearing an orange-green nylon-type construction vest, a gray hoodie, a surgical mask, and a neon green construction helmet. After opening up two smoke grenades, Essig said the man fired his weapon at least 33 times and fled the scene. Police found at the scene, among other items, a U-Haul key, which led them to recover the U-Haul van in Brooklyn.
James, 62 and with addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia, “appeared to have maintained a significant online presence in recent years, posting dozens of videos on social media,” The New York Times reported. “Some were featured on a YouTube channel belonging to the username prophetoftruth88, from which the police obtained a screenshot of him to release to the public. In at least one post, the man in the video identified himself as Frank James. In the recordings, many of them between 20 and 50 minutes in length, the man offered lengthy tirades, often on subjects of race, violence and his personal life. He disparaged Black people and particularly Black women. And he recently criticized New York City Mayor Eric Adams for his recent policies focusing on homeless people and safety in the subway system.”
Adams, who appeared virtually at the April 12 press conference (he tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantining), said that “thanks to the quick thinking of the MTA crew, and the bravery and cooperation of passengers, lives were saved. And thanks to our first responders, the injured were quickly taken to area hospitals and all of them are expected to recover. You know I have been realistic and outspoken about my commitment to protecting public safety. I stand by that and will continue to do everything in my power to dam the rivers that feed the sea of violence. But this is not only a New York City problem. This rage, this violence, these guns, these relentless shooters are an American problem. It’s going to take all levels of government to solve it. It is going to take the entire nation to speak out and push back against the cult of death that has taken over this nation.”
CBS2 News New York reported that security video cameras in the station were not transmitting images. “We know that there were three stations where the video wasn’t working,” NYPD’s Essig said.
The search for James “included a broad review of security cameras throughout the subway system; a more than 17-block wide ground canvass in Sunset Park for stores’ surveillance footage or other signs of James; and a search for information on the gun, which matched a serial number in federal records,” the Times reported. “But the investigation was complicated by the malfunctioning of at least one security camera in the subway station where the mass shooting took place, and one senior law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said that it appeared none were in full operation at the time of the gunfire.
The security camera problem may be widespread in the NYCT subway system.
“The preliminary review stated that at that particular station there appeared to have been some form of malfunction with the camera system. That is still under investigation,” Mayor Adams said. “We’re communicating with the MTA to find out was it through the entire station or just one camera.”
Sources told CBS2 the cameras themselves were working. It was the connection that sends the camera feed to both the NYPD and MTA security centers that was apparently non-functional. The MTA has approximately 10,000 cameras at its 472 subway stations. “This isn’t the only time the MTA has had camera problems,” CBS2 reported. “A 2018 audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli warned that the agency had pervasive problems with ‘preventative maintenance’ of its camera system. Auditors reviewed 223 cameras at 10 stations and found that 1,328 of the 4,219 expected maintenance visits were simply not done. That’s 31%. Officials told CBS2 that law enforcement officials are looking at the camera feeds from all the stops on the N train, starting at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, where the train started, to see if they can see the suspect entering or leaving the system. ‘We’re going to examine the other stations because the camera system is an important part of our anti-violence and terrorist operation as well,’ Adams said.”
According to The Daily News, “An MTA source said preserving footage from subway camera feeds has been an ongoing challenge in recent years. Each subway camera used to store video footage locally, but over the past decade MTA officials have worked with the NYPD to transition away from local storage on many cameras. Now, many of the subway cameras only stream footage directly to NYPD data servers through fiber optic cables managed by Verizon, said the source. The [36th Street] station has cameras near the turnstiles that could have recorded the shooter, but authorities could find no footage of his exit, sources said. NYPD officials said the cameras at the turnstiles at the 25th St. and 45th St. stations were also not transmitting feeds during the time of the incident. The MTA’s fleet of roughly 6,400 subway cars are not equipped with security cameras. MTA spokesman Tim Minton said about two-thirds of the security cameras in subway stations store footage locally. He did not specify whether that was the case with the cameras at 36th St.”
Many transit and government agencies and other groups spoke out against the violence. Among them:
The Federal Transit Administration on April 12 issued this statement via Twitter:
“As law enforcement agencies conduct their investigations, FTA continues to monitor the situation @NYCTSubway and is in contact with @MTA. Our thoughts are with all those impacted by this terrible tragedy.”
American Public Transit Association President and CEO Paul Skoutelas, also via Twitter, said on April 12:
“The horrific actions this morning at the 36th Street/4th Avenue subway station in New York City are a violation of the rights of all Americans to live their lives peacefully. We abhor these acts of violence that we have seen all too often in our communities. We commend the quick actions of the riders & employees who rendered immediate aid to those injured along with the State of New York, the City of New York, the @MTA & their myriad partners who responded quickly to the call & their actions to bring those responsible to justice. Our industry will continue to work together to share best practices and continue to make our public spaces safer for all.” – @APTA_info President & CEO @paul_skoutelas
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority released this statement on April 12:
“Metro extends its condolences to the victims in today’s subway shooting in New York City. ‘On behalf of the Metro Board of Directors, I would like to extend my deepest condolences for the victims of the tragedy that occurred today in Brooklyn,’ said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Hilda L. Solis. ‘Our transit systems must be places where riders can feel secure, and Metro will work to ensure that all Angelenos can move through the system safely.’
“There have been no credible threats to the Metro system in Los Angeles County and Metro is operating normal service. Metro, however, is on heightened alert and is working with its security partners at the local, state and national levels to monitor threat levels and share information. Safety is Metro’s top priority. As a precaution, Metro will be deploying additional security personnel at transit stations in Los Angeles County.
“‘We take the security of our transit customers and employees extremely seriously and we are on constant lookout for all types of security threats,’ said Metro CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins. ‘Safety is everyone’s job and our number one priority. We again urge everyone to be aware of their surroundings and be vigilant on our system and in any public space.’”
Also via Twitter on April 12, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail) posted:
“In response to inquiries regarding the NY subway attack, Tri-Rail security will increase its presence & conduct frequent inspections at stations/onboard trains. We are in communication w/ local law enforcement & will be looking for any potential additional instructions from @TSA.”
In an April 12 statement on NYC subway shooting, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) said:
“MARTA sends our condolences to fellow transit agency MTA and the people impacted by the horrific act of violence on the subway system in Brooklyn. Public transit is essential to millions of people in New York City and around the country and this attack is a devastating violation of the everyday spaces we all inhabit. While there are no credible threats against MARTA, the MARTA Police Department (MPD) has placed additional officers, K-9 units, and special operations teams on trains and in train stations. MPD is in contact with our law enforcement and transit agency partners and will continue to monitor the situation. If you feel unsafe or see something suspicious, contact an officer or download the new See&Say app to report your concerns. MARTA See & Say 2.0 on the App Store (apple.com) MARTA See & Say 2.0 – Apps on Google Play”
Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) CEO Rick Leary issued this statement on April 12:
“We are all shocked and saddened by the images of this morning’s horrendous attack on commuters in New York’s subway system.
My thoughts, and those of the entire organization, are with the people of New York and our colleagues at the MTA as they deal with the aftermath of this senseless violence.
“As always, the safety of our customers and employees is my paramount concern.
“Although there is no known threat here in Toronto, TTC Transit Special Constables and Toronto Police are increasing their presence in the system today to provide reassurance to everyone that the TTC remains safe.
“We would remind people that if they see anything suspicious, they can report it to any uniformed TTC employee for immediate action.”
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) on April 12 said in a statement that it was stepping up security patrols:
“In light of the attack on a New York subway train, VTA is increasing transit patrol visibility on the light rail system, aboard trains and at light rail stations throughout Santa Clara County.
“Although there have been no specific threats to the VTA system, the Sheriff’s Office Transit Patrol is ensuring that the riding public not only is safe on board, but also feels safe and confident to ride public transit. The public may see an increase in Sheriff’s Office Transit Patrol officers and private security officers on the system.
“Three Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) canines regularly available to VTA will be patrolling the system randomly throughout the week. We ask passengers and passersby not to engage with the bomb-sniffing dogs and to allow officers to complete their surveillance without interruption. We do not expect this extra security visibility to interfere with transit service.
“Again, this increased security visibility is not being done in response to any threat, but to ensure the riding public feels safe aboard the light rail system. We ask that passengers remain vigilant while on the light rail system and report any suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1.”