The man sought as a person of interest in the mass shooting on a Brooklyn train during rush hour a day ago, Frank R. James, has now been labeled a suspect in the case, authorities said Wednesday as the manhunt for the gunman intensified.
James, 62, was believed to have been taken into custody on Wednesday, according to four police sources. He was picked up near St. Marks and First Avenue in Manhattan, more than 24 hours after the attack terrorized rush-hour commuters in Sunset Park and left 23 people hurt, 10 of them by gunfire at the 36th Street station.
Three senior law enforcement officials said ATF agents were able to trace the gun recovered at the shooting scene to a purchase James made years ago.
There is also video of James in and around the U-Haul van recovered in Brooklyn Tuesday night that authorities have linked to the shooting, the senior law enforcement officials said. Additional images of the suspect have also been recovered.
Surveillance video obtained from the area near the parked U-Haul includes grainy footage that appears to show James walking into the subway station, carrying a bag that looks similar to the one recovered at the shooting scene, the officials said.
Cops believe James is the man who rented a U-Haul linked to the case. A key to the vehicle and the credit card used to rent it was discovered at the scene.
The van with Arizona license plates was found just before 5 p.m. Tuesday on Kings Highway in Gravesend. The vehicle was later searched and cleared, senior law enforcement sources said, as cops removed a table, chairs and memory foam pillows.
James has ties to Philadelphia and Wisconsin as well as New York, according to police.
He was said to have a past criminal record in New Jersey that includes three arrests on charges related to petit larceny and disorderly conduct in 2007 and trespassing in 1992.
James also has nine prior arrests in New York from 1992-1998, NYPD officials said Wednesday, including possession of burglary tools, criminal sex acts, and theft of service. However, he has no history on par with the violence he's suspected of in Tuesday's attack of which officials are aware at this point.
Part of James' criminal history included making "terroristic threats," according to sources, but investigators said the threats were similar to ones commonly made by those who are emotionally disturbed.
Two senior law enforcement officials say the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York is considering filing federal criminal charges in the subway attack. One potential federal charge being considered is using a weapon/arson on mass transit/train, but no final decision has been made, the officials said.
Meanwhile, authorities are scouring social media posts and YoutTube videos by someone with James' name that mentioned homelessness, New York and Mayor Eric Adams, leading officials to tighten the mayor's security detail, police said. Videos that James is believed to have posted on YouTube show him ranting about violence.
In a criminal complain filed Wednesday, prosecutors say James had made various statements about the NYC subway system prior the April 12 attack, including comments about Eric Adams and questions about the "homeless situation" on the train.
James also made statements about various conspiracy theories, according to the complaint. “And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherf---ers," one of the statements said.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the online statements "concerning."
It appears James drove the rental van to New York from Pennsylvania on Monday, based on license plate reader data and other info, sources said. Investigators obtained video from 5 a.m. Tuesday near where the van was found parked, appearing to show a man matching the description of the subway attacker emerging from the van.
A motive for the attack remains under investigation, but officials quickly sought to assure already fearful New Yorkers there were no imminent outstanding threats.
“There are currently no known explosive devices on our subway trains and this is not being investigated as an act of terrorism at this time," Sewell said earlier Tuesday.
Cops believe the suspect acted alone. Law enforcement officials said a .9-mm semi-automatic handgun was recovered at the scene, along with a bag of smoke canisters and fireworks. A hatchet, two extra extended clips of ammo, a fuse and a spray bottle of gasoline were also found, police said.
One source told NBC New York that the gun the suspect used may have jammed, preventing worse tragedy. However, the shooter was able to fire at least 33 times inside the train car.
Authorities searched a storage unit registered to Frank James on Tuesday and discovered 9mm ammunition, a threaded 9mm pistol barrel that allows for a silencer or suppresser to be attached, targets and .223 caliber ammunition, which is used with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, according to James' criminal complaint.
The next day, officials executed another court-authorized search of a Philadelphia apartment rented by Frank James. Inside, they found an empty magazine for a Glock handgun, a taser, a high-capacity rifle magazine and a blue smoke cannister.
A total of 10 people were struck by bullets allegedly fired by James, with five shooting victims said to have been critically wounded. Police said that an additional 13 people were hurt by falling, smoke inhalation or other injuries suffered during the panic after the shots were fired. The extent of the other victims' injuries wasn't clear.
A reward of $50,000 from police, the MTA and Transport Workers Union is being offered for information leading to an arrest and indictment of the shooter.
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