NEW YORK — Frank James was arrested Wednesday afternoon in New York City.
The NYPD, the FBI and the ATF worked around the clock for 30 hours to bring James into custody.
As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reports, police say James dropped clues along the way that helped investigators zero in on him as their prime suspect.
It was the worst mass shooting in the history of the subway system and now James will face terror-related charges.
Federal prosecutors say James, 62, crossed state lines from Pennsylvania to New York to carry out Tuesday’s violent subway attack, bringing with him a bag full of weapons, including hatchets, pepper spray, gas canisters and a 9mm handgun. He now faces a federal terrorism charge, which includes carrying out violence onboard mass transit.
“Frank James has been charged by complaint in Brooklyn Federal Court with one count of violating 18 USC sections 1992, A7 and B1, which prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks against mass transportation systems,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “The statue is titled ‘Terrorism and Other Violent Attacks in Mass Transportation.'”
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, in the criminal complaint, prosecutors carefully laid out the timeline to the attack.
Surveillance cameras captured James allegedly driving a rented U-Haul van early Tuesday morning over the Verrazano Bridge and then parking it in Gravesend, Brooklyn, two blocks from the N train subway stop.
New surveillance video shows James walking toward the subway just before he carried out Tuesday’s attack.
Police say he got on a Manhattan-bound N train at Kings Highway and rode eight stops before strapping on a gas mask, detonating smoke bombs and opening fire inside the packed train car and on the platform at 36th Street.
Fatim Gjeloshi says he was sitting across from the suspect when he started shooting.
“He was talking to himself the whole time,” Gjeloshi said. “He was shooting, boom, boom. I was like, whoa, this guy’s crazy.”
Police say James shot ten people. None were killed, and all of the gunshot wounds were to the lower body, not the head or torso. Police believe that’s because the smoke cannister affected the suspect’s ability to see targets.
Police also say James vanished after the attack. Investigators later found the handgun he used and discarded after it jammed mid-rampage. It appeared someone tried to deface the serial number.
“We believe, but this is still early in the investigation, that after firing his weapon 33 times at innocent New York City subway riders, Mr. James boarded an R train that had pulled into the station, went one stop up and exited at 25th Street station,” NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
At the 36th Street station, police recovered that bag of weapons, including fireworks and, most importantly, a key that led them to a nearby U-Haul van, which investigators say James had rented in Philadelphia.
“We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run,” Police commissioner Keechant Sewell said.
Police say James may have spent Tuesday night sleeping on the trains. There were sightings that had him in the Bronx at the end of the 4 line around midnight.
“My office and our law enforcement partners will use every tool at our disposal to bring this individual to justice,” Peace said.
Newly unearthed social media videos show an angry James warning he was “entering the danger zone” and ranting about city officials.
“Those who are gonna commit crimes, like the shooting, [expletive] got shot in the chest out in Brooklyn. The old lady got hit in the head with a hammer? You can’t stop that. That means a policeman in every station and that’s not possible,” James says.
The videos raise the question of whether warning signals were missed, but former police commissioner Bill Bratton says authorities would have no reason to be looking at James’ YouTube.
“There are tens of millions posting every day. Police cannot be proactively looking at that without some form of indication that there’s a crime about to be committed or is being committed,” Bratton said.
Sewell praised the NYPD, ATF and FBI for capturing James in just 30 hours.
“We hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the city of New York,” she said.
We also learned James has multiple prior arrests for crimes like criminal tampering, theft and criminal sex act.
James’ first appearance in Brooklyn Federal Court will be Thursday. If he is convicted on this federal charge, he faces life in prison.