The 62-year-old man wanted in connection with Tuesday's mass shooting on a rush-hour subway in Brooklyn was apprehended in Manhattan, the NYPD confirmed Wednesday, more than a full day after the attack left 10 shot and many more injured.
Frank R. James was taken into custody near St. Marks Place and First Avenue in the East Village around 1:45 p.m. without incident after a 28-hour manhunt, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said, adding a Crime Stoppers tip helped bring him in.
In fact, police sources said they believe James called the tip line himself, saying he was at a McDonald's on the Lower East Side.
"This is Frank. You guys are looking for me ... my phone is about to die," the sources say the caller said.
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James wasn't at the McDonald's by the time cops responded to the call, but they drove around and eventually spotted him on a street corner. He didn't resist.
Three sources familiar with the arrest said one of the NYPD officers approached and asked the man if he was James. He responded saying yes, and that he had been waiting for police to find him all day, according to the sources.
James was questioned at the 9th Precinct Wednesday afternoon, before being led out of the stationhouse in handcuffs. He was charged by a federal complaint in Brooklyn with one count of knowingly committing a violent attack with a dangerous weapon on mass transportation, with the intent to cause death and serious bodily injury to New York City transit riders, authorities said.
"The defendant committed a heinous and premeditated attack on ordinary New Yorkers during their morning subway commute," stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. "All New Yorkers have the right to expect that they will be safe as they travel throughout our great city and use our vital transportation systems."
They also intend to prove James crossed state lines to commit the attack, and pledged justice would be served. A conviction carries a max sentence of 20 years in prison.
The first court appearance for James is set for Thursday. Once in police custody, James refused to answer any questions, and asked for a lawyer.
"We hope this arrest brings some solace to the people of New York," Sewell said, crediting hundreds of NYPD detectives and federal partners with ATF, FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and US Marshals' Regional Fugitive Task Force for their efforts. "We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run."
Law enforcement had zeroed in on James in the hours after Tuesday's shooting on the train at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park, lifting critical clues from a rented U-Haul van, surveillance footage and evidence at the scene, including a gun, hatchet, additional ammunition and a bag that had unused smoke canister and fireworks.
Just ahead of the arrest, law enforcement sources said a MetroCard purchased with a credit card linked to James was swiped at a Brooklyn subway station Tuesday night, hours after the attack.
Investigators believe James may still have been riding the subways following the shooting. MetroCard data isn't real-time, though, and his travel direction wasn't clear, they said. James' last known whereabouts were traced to Park Slope's Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue subway station, which he was seen entering around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, less than an hour after the shooting, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
It wasn't immediately clear what James was doing in the time between that Park Slope sighting and his capture in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Other surveillance video was clear -- and apparently showed James entering the Kings Highway N station, not far from where the U-Haul was found, about two hours before he allegedly opened fire on commuters roughly eight stops away.
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in a statement that "transit riders and all New Yorkers will rest a little easier tonight" after James' arrest.
Essig said the same black rolling suitcase James is seen taking into the Kings Highway station, three blocks from where the U-Haul was left, was recovered at the 36th Street shooting scene. The construction vest and helmet James was seen wearing in that video also were recovered nearby in a trash bin, Essig added.
How James escaped the chaotic scene at 36th Street had remained unclear until Wednesday, when top NYPD officials explained how they think, after firing 33 shots, he got out as emergency personnel raced to treat the wounded.
According to the preliminary investigation, James hopped on an R train that had pulled into 36th Street and took it one stop to 25th Street, where he was also seen on surveillance cameras, Essig said. The handgun recovered at the shooting scene was also traced to the suspect. It appears he purchased it in Ohio in 2011.
Law enforcement officials believe the attack that injured at least 23 people, 10 of them by gunfire and some of them children, was premeditated. The fact alone jarred riders already skittish amid recent upticks in subway violence and once again interrupted New York City's rocky pandemic recovery.
"My fellow New Yorkers, we got him," Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she was "grateful" that James had been arrested and thanked law enforcement, while adding that state resources will be provided to assist in the continued investigation.
"My heart is with all those who are injured, their loved ones, and the entire Sunset Park community," Hochul said in a statement.
With the suspected shooter in custody, the focus now turns to a possible motive.
Authorities have been examining social media videos in which James decried America as a racist place awash in violence and sometimes railed against Adams.
“This nation was born in violence, it’s kept alive by violence or the threat thereof and it’s going to die a violent death. There’s nothing going to stop that,” James said in one video.
According to a federal complaint unsealed Wednesday, Frank James allegedly posted public videos on YouTube making comments about the city's subway system.
"Among other things, James addressed statements to New York City’s mayor: 'What are you doing, brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation?' and 'Every car I went to wa[s] loaded with homeless people. It was so bad, I couldn’t even stand," the complaint said. "James also made statements, in sum and substance, about various conspiracy theories, including that: 'And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherf---ers.'"
Sewell had previously called the posts “concerning" and officials tightened security for Adams as investigators processed evidence from the van.
Pictures: Multiple People Hurt in Brooklyn Subway Shooting
James has ties to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as New York City, where he has at least nine prior arrests between 1998 and 1992, police officials said Wednesday. Those arrests involved charges ranging from burglary tools possession, criminal sex act, theft of service and tampering, according to the NYPD.
The suspected shooter also has a criminal record in New Jersey but none of the crimes -- petit larceny, disorderly conduct and trespassing -- neared the level of the behavior James allegedly exhibited during Tuesday's seemingly calculated attack.
One rider's video, shot through a closed door between subway cars, shows a person in a hooded sweatshirt raising an arm and pointing at something as five bangs sound. In another video, smoke and people pour out of a subway car, some limping.
Greenish smoke spewed from the subway doors when the Manhattan-bound train stopped at the platform, according to officials. Throngs of panicked people were seen running, bleeding — in total, 23 were hurt, police said, most of them in the chaos.
“Someone call 911!” a person could be heard shouting.
Five of the gunshot victims were critically injured, with details on the nature of their wounds not immediately clear. No fatalities were reported.
One source close to the investigation says the gunman's weapon may have jammed, potentially preventing further tragedy.
The gun was recovered at the scene, as was a bag with smoke canisters and fireworks, along with a hatchet, a spray bottle of gasoline and a fuse — lending further credence to the theory of a premeditated attack on New York City transit riders.
Three extended magazines of ammunition were also recovered at the scene: one still in the handgun, one in a backpack and one under his subway seat. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives completed an urgent trace to identify the gun’s manufacturer, seller and initial owner. That came back to James.
An MTA surveillance camera in the station wasn't working at the time of the shooting, three sources say. It's not clear why, but officials say there were “a lot of different options” from cameras elsewhere on the subway line to get a glimpse of the shooter.
More than a dozen victims who weren't hit by gunfire were injured in the crowd response to the chaos, officials said, with injuries including smoke inhalation, panic attacks and falling. Some of the wounded were in the same train car as the suspect, while others were on the platform, authorities said.
All described a terrifying scene.
"You start seeing faces against the glass, and it's people, several women, banging against the glass, screaming," said Kenneth Foote-Smith, who was in the next subway car over. "
"I did see a gentleman who was shot in lower stomach, laying out the ground, being treated by three or four people — bystanders, not EMS," he added. "I wasn’t the one who was injured or shot. Those are the people I think about, who I can’t stop thinking about. The people I couldn’t help."
The injured were taken to at least three city hospitals, including NYU Langone, Maimonides Medical Center, NYP-Brooklyn Methodist and Kings County Hospital.
The youngest victims in the shooting, four children between 12 and 16 years old, were taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where they were visited by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul in the evening.
MAP: Here's Where the Subway Shooting Happened
Houari Benkada was one of the gunshot victims, telling CNN in an interview that she actually sat next to the shooter before smoke filled the car, sending people running. He said he was trying to shield a pregnant woman when he was hit.
"She said 'I'm pregnant with a baby,' I hugged her, then the bum rush continued, and that's when I got shot in the back of my knee," the 27-year-old said.
All of the victims are expected to survive. Trying to reach a loved one? Here's what to do.
The New York City Unified Victim Identification System (UVIS) was activated in response to the NYPD activity located near 36th Street and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.
If you are concerned about the welfare of someone who may have been affected by the event and are unable to contact them, please call 311. From outside of NYC, you may call 212-639-9675.