Police say they still don’t know the motive behind Tuesday’s Brooklyn bloodbath
Police in New York City have tracked down and arrested Frank R. James, suspected of firing over 30 rounds into a crowded subway station on Tuesday. He faces federal charges for a terrorist or violent attack on public transit, and life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said on Wednesday afternoon.
James, 62, was taken into custody in Manhattan’s East Village on Wednesday, about 30 hours after he allegedly shot up the 36th Street Station in Brooklyn. While no one was killed, 10 people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds, while as many as 19 more had suffered other injuries. The attacker fired at least 33 times and set off smoke grenades in a crowded rail car.
US Attorney Breon Peace said that James will be charged with a federal offense, under a statute that outlaws terrorism and violent attacks in mass transit systems. Peace said that there was no indication James had ties to terrorist organizations, domestic or international, and his motive remained unclear, however.
According to police, the elderly African-American man has a long prior criminal history, with 12 arrests in New York and New Jersey for things like burglary, larceny, trespassing, a “criminal sex act,” and theft, dating back to the early 1990s.
The gun used in the shooting was tracked to a pawn shop in Ohio, where James bought it – legally – in 2011. Police believe he drove up to New York from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Monday, in a rented U-Haul van that was found outside the station.
According to AP, the authorities are currently investigating his financial and telephone records, as well as hours of “rambling, profanity-filled videos James posted on YouTube and other social media platforms” in search of a motive.
One video, posted on Monday, shows James criticizing crime against black Americans and urging drastic action. “It’s not going to get better until we make it better,” he said, according to AP, adding that things would only change if certain people were “stomped, kicked and tortured” out of their “comfort zone.”
“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,” he reportedly said in another video.
It was not possible to independently verify these reports, as James’ YouTube channel has been banned for “violating community guidelines.”
AP said that in other videos and social media posts James mentioned NYC subways, referred to himself as a “victim” of the city’s mental health programs, and criticized the new mayor Eric Adams – also African-American – for his plan to end gun violence.
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell has called the videos “concerning” and bolstered Adams’ security detail, as the mayor quarantined with Covid-19.
According to Newsweek, the FBI flagged James as a potential terrorist and put him on a watchlist, only to clear him after multiple interviews sometime in 2019.