NEW YORK — A man who posted numerous social media videos decrying the U.S. as a racist place awash in violence and recounting his struggle with mental illness was arrested Wednesday afternoon, a day after an attack on a subway train in Brooklyn left 10 people wounded by gunfire.
Frank R. James, 62, was taken into custody in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, law enforcement officials who weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press. Further details weren’t immediately available.
Police had initially said Tuesday that James was being sought for questioning because he had rented a van possibly connected to the attack, but weren’t sure whether he was responsible for the shooting. Mayor Eric Adams said in a series of media interviews Wednesday morning that investigators had upgraded James to a suspect, but did not offer details beyond citing “new information that became available to the team.”
Police said that the gunman set off smoke bombs in a subway car, then shot at least 33 times with a 9mm handgun. Five of the gunshot victims are in serious condition, but it is expected that all 10 people who were wounded during the shooting will survive. Others who were able to escape gunshot injuries from their wounds received treatment for smoke inhalation, and other injuries.
Although the shooter managed to escape in chaos, many clues were left, such as the gun, ammunition magazines and a hatchet.
This key led to James, an investigator who was a native of New York City and had recently moved into Philadelphia and Wisconsin.
Federal investigators determined the gun used in the shooting was purchased by James at a pawn shop — a licensed firearms dealer — in the Columbus, Ohio, area in 2011, a law enforcement official said
Unoccupied, the van was discovered near the station from which investigators concluded that the gunman entered the subway system. A law enforcement official stated that no explosives or firearms had been found inside the van. The official stated that police found other items such as pillows suggesting that the man may have been sleeping in or planning to sleep inside the van.
The official stated that James was believed to have driven up from Philadelphia Monday. They also reviewed surveillance footage showing an individual matching James’ physical description getting out of his van on Tuesday morning. The official also said that James was seen entering Brooklyn’s subway station with a bag.
In addition to analyzing financial and telephone records connected to James, investigators were reviewing hours of rambling, profanity-filled videos James posted on YouTube and other social media platforms — replete with violent language and bigoted comments, some against other Black people — as they tried to discern a motive.
James, in one video posted just a few days before the attack, criticizes crimes against Black people, and calls for drastic action.
“You got kids going in here now taking machine guns and mowing down innocent people,” James says. “It’s not going to get better until we make it better,” he said, adding that he thought things would only change if certain people were “stomped, kicked and tortured” out of their “comfort zone.”
In another video he says, “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.”
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the posts “concerning” and officials tightened security for Adams, who was already isolating following a positive COVID-19 test Sunday.
Several of James’ videos mention New York’s subways. A Feb. 20 video says the mayor and governor’s plan to address homelessness and safety in the subway system “is doomed for failure” and refers to himself as a “victim” of the city’s mental health programs. A Jan. 25 video criticizes Adams’ plan to end gun violence.
Brooklyn’s Subway Station, from which passengers fled the fire-breathing train during the attack, was opened as normal Wednesday morning after the violence. It was only 24 hours since the incident.
Jude Jacques (Commuter) said he takes the D train from his fire department job, two blocks away, to pray every day, but that Wednesday was a very special day for him.
“I said, ‘God, everything is in your hands,’” Jacques said. “I was antsy, and you can imagine why. Everybody is scared because it just happened.”
Balsamo reported in Washington. This report was contributed by the Associated Press reporters Jim Mustian and Beatrice Dupuy in New York, Karen Matthews and Deepti hajela. Michael Kunzelman came from College Park, Maryland.
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