The Hunt for the Brooklyn Subway Shooter: Suspect Frank James Arrested as Hundreds of Cops Scour NYC for Clues

Within 30 hours of the mass shooting on a Manhattan-bound N train in Brooklyn that saw 10 people shot and 13 others injured, police announced they had arrested the man they said was responsible.  

Frank Robert James, 62, was taken into custody at 1:42 p.m. on Wednesday in the Manhattan neighborhood of the East Village, police said. A civilian spotted James walking down Canal Street, while another witness saw him at a McDonald’s. Law enforcement sources and officials told CNN and the Associated Press that James himself called in the tip to Crime Stoppers that he was at a McDonald’s. By the time police converged on the fast-food restaurant to investigate the tip, James had already left, and so they fanned out around the neighborhood.  

Patrol officers spotted him on St. Mark’s Place and First Avenue and took him into custody without incident, officials said. He was transported to an NYPD facility.  

“My fellow New Yorkers: We got him. We got him,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said after the arrest.  

The arrest was captured on video by multiple bystanders, some of whom did not censor themselves as James was taken into custody.  

“You ought to die, you ought to be f****** incinerated,” one person yelled.  

Calling the search for James an “all-hands-on-deck investigation,” NYPD Keechant Sewell said it was a multi-agency effort to locate the person responsible for Tuesday’s shooting.  

“Literally hundreds of NYPD detectives worked doggedly during the last 30 hours to bring this together,” she said. “They did so in tandem with a vast number of our law enforcement partners, including those from the FBI NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, the ATF NYPD Crime Gun Intelligence Center and the regional task force led by the United States Marshalls Service. 

“We hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the City of New York,” she continued.  

Sewell said law enforcement used every resource at their disposal to gather and process evidence that linked James to the crime.  

“We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run,” she said.  

A day-by-day timeline is emerging from the video posts James shared online.  

Last month, he lived in Milwaukee before suddenly packing up and driving to Philadelphia. From there, he rented a U-Haul van and drove to New York. The van was spotted on surveillance footage crossing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn Tuesday morning.  

And in exclusive surveillance footage obtained by WCBS-TV, a man who looks like James can be seen dressed as a construction worker walking to the subway on Kings Highway in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gravesend. The man can be seen carrying a tote bag and wheeling another bag that police say contained a hatchet, two gas canisters, a Glock 9-millimeter handgun, three extended ammunition magazines and a stash of fireworks police said were bought in Wisconsin.

Authorities found the receipt for the fireworks, a six-pack of smoke bombs that cost $14.99. 

A passenger in the train car in which James allegedly opened fire said James was sitting in the back corner when he popped one of the smoke grenades, police said. A witness said they asked him what he did, and he said “oops,” popped another and then brandished his gun and began firing, police said.  

Subway passenger Fitim Gjelosji said he was sitting across from James on the N train when the attack began.  

“He was talking to himself the whole time,” Gjelosji said. “He was shooting, boom, boom, I’m like, this guy is crazy.” 

Gjelosji said the gunman pointed the gun at him and fired twice. The pointed attack left bullet holes in his pants, but Gjelosji was not directly shot.  

“All I can say is that I’m lucky to be alive,” he said. “I got really lucky.” 

James allegedly fired 33 times from inside the subway car. Ten people were shot and 13 more were injured in the attack.  

After the train car opened, police say James boarded an R train, went one stop, and exited at the 25th Street station. He then made his way to the 7th Avenue-9th Street subway station in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, more than a mile away, which he was spotted entering at around 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, James Essig, the NYPD’s ’s chief of detectives, told reporters. 

His whereabouts after entering that subway system and his arrest Wednesday were not immediately clear, but authorities noted they were focused first on finding James and removing any threat to the public.
“This case was quickly solved using technology, video canvassing and then getting that information out to the public,” Essig said.  

James’s known criminal history spans New Jersey and New York, according to authorities. In New Jersey, James was arrested in 1991, 1992 and 2007 for trespassing, larceny and disorderly conduct respectively, Essig said.   

His criminal history in New York City includes nine arrests dating back to 1992, Essig said. He was arrested for possession of burglary tools four times, a criminal sex act, and theft of service two times, Essig said.  

Police did not comment about the outcomes of those cases, though officials noted that none of those charges are felonies, and as such, he would not be forbidden from owning a firearm.  

Members of the NYPD and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ joint task force known as the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, or CGIC, created a timeline for the gun James allegedly used in the shooting that spanned 16 years and five states, John DeVito of the ATF said.  

“About 12 hours after attack, ATF agents were able to close the loop on the lifespan,” he said.  

James bought the gun in Ohio from a federal firearms licensee in 2011, DeVito said.  

James has been charged with having committed a terrorist act on a mass transit system, according to Breon S. Peace, the U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District. If convicted, Mr. James could face a sentence of up to life in prison. 

 

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