Subway Shooting Suspect Faces Terror Charge, Possible Life Sentence

Subway shooting suspect Frank R. James has his initial court appearance Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn after his own call to Crime Stoppers led to his capture Wednesday afternoon.

Law enforcement officials say James told the hotline, “I think you’re looking for me. I’m seeing my picture all over the news and I’ll be around this McDonald’s.” James was not at the restaurant, but with help from a pair of New Yorkers who called 911 after seeing him walking around the East Village, police descended on the suspect and arrested him.

The 62-year-old is initially charged with one felony count of committing a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system, according to Brooklyn federal prosecutors. Conviction carries the possibility of life in prison.

James is accused of setting off smoke grenades in the subway car Tuesday morning and then opening fire with at least 33 shots from a 9mm handgun. Ten victims were shot, none fatally, and several others injured in the ensuing chaos. Five of the wounded were listed in critical condition with injuries not considered life-threatening.

The alleged assailant is a New York City area native who had recent addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, and he left a U-Haul van near the scene that was rented in Philadelphia. Investigators found the gun believed to have been used in the attack was purchased from a licensed pawn shop in Ohio in 2011.

James posted numerous videos on social media railing against racism in the U.S. and detailing his struggle with mental illness. He rambled about how the war in Ukraine could bring about a race war to exterminate Black people and called outreach workers “homosexual predators.”

In one video James railed against just-confirmed Supreme Court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, saying that because her husband is White “she married the devil.” YouTube says his account violated platform standards and has been shut down.

When reached by the news media Tuesday, James’ sister Catherine said she has not spoken to her brother in three years.

Crime continues to plague the nation’s largest city, and mass transit has taken the double brunt of the pandemic-related drop in ridership and a spate of random attacks on the subway. Tuesday’s horrific incident adds to a list that includes passengers shoved onto train tracks from platforms, and city officials are at a loss for solutions.