Frank Robert James, the man suspected of shooting at least 10 people at a Brooklyn subway station, was arrested and charged on Wednesday, after evading capture for more than 24 hours in a city teeming with police.
"Literally hundreds of NYPD detectives worked doggedly during the last 30 hours to bring this together," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "I hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the city of New York."
James, a 62-year-old Black man, was arrested in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan after police received a Crime Stoppers tip. He faces a federal charge of terrorism on mass transit, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
"The government will prove, among other things, that James traveled across a state line in order to commit the offense, and transported materials across the state line in aid of the commission of the offense," US Attorney Breon Peace said.
The Associated Press and several other outlets reported that it was James who called the police on himself, though an NYPD spokesperson declined to comment, saying tips reported to Crime Stoppers are anonymous.
Several people who were in the East Village area also said they informed police about James' whereabouts, including Zack Tahhan, a Syrian man who moved to the US five years ago and who was identified by passersby as the person who reported James. Tahhan, who works for a security system service, told reporters that he had spotted James on a security camera and alerted police.
Police did not confirm if Tahhan was the person who submitted the tip about James, but they took him away for an interview on Wednesday afternoon.
More than 20 people were injured when the suspect, wearing a gas mask, released gas canisters inside the subway car of a Manhattan-bound N train, then opened fire on commuters during the tail end of morning rush hour on Tuesday. Ten people sustained gunshot wounds. Video on social media showed terrified commuters fleeing the train in a panic, some falling to the ground and leaving streaks of blood on the platform of the Sunset Park subway station. Five victims who were 18 years old and younger were on the way to school when the shooting happened, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
Officials said Wednesday that they are still working to determine a motive. NYPD's chief of detectives, James Essig, said they believe that after James fired 33 times at commuters, he boarded an R train that pulled into the Sunset Park station and exited one stop up.
The attack shook New Yorkers, and an air of tension hung over the city in the ensuing 24 hours as police launched a search for the suspect.
Police recovered a U-Haul van connected to the suspect on Tuesday night and named James a person of interest in the case. On Wednesday morning, authorities said James was a suspect and offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.
It's unclear how the suspect managed to escape the scene in a transit system — and a city — with such a heavy police presence. According to videos and eyewitness accounts, commuters ran out of a smoke-filled train car in panic as it pulled into the station. Many rushed toward an R train that was across the platform — likely the same one that police said James himself boarded.
Police found the keys to the U-Haul van at the scene of the shooting, along with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, three extended Glock-type magazines, a hatchet, bullets and bullet fragments, two detonated and two undetonated smoke grenades, gasoline, and fireworks. Essig said the gun found at the crime scene was purchased by James in 2011 in Ohio.
Police also recovered footage of James entering the Kings Highway subway station, three blocks from where they found the U-Haul van.
Essig said that James was known to local law enforcement, and has ties to Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City. He had nine prior arrests in New York, from 1992 to 1998, and three arrests in New Jersey, in 1991, 1992, and 2007.
Among the photos of James that the NYPD shared on Tuesday was a screenshot from a YouTube video from "prophetoftruth88," an account that appeared to belong to James.
The YouTube channel had hundreds of videos, many of them extended rants in which he expressed racist and derogatory views, including against Black people and other people of color. He also complained about unhoused people on the NYC subway and criticized Adams' policies, and in one video called 9/11 "the most beautiful day in the history of this country."
The US Attorney's office also noted that James referenced conspiracy theories and threatened violence. In one video, he said, "And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherfuckers," the US Attorney's office said.
Sewell said Tuesday that authorities were aware of "concerning" social media posts that may be connected to James, and as a result, the mayor's security detail would be tightened "in an abundance of caution."
When asked why police hadn't yet apprehended the suspect in an interview with WNYC on Wednesday morning before the arrest, Adams deflected the question by lauding the cooperation of law enforcement agencies and their work in identifying the U-Haul van and James' social media accounts.
"This is actually an amazing turnaround with the lack of information that we had," he said.
New York City employs about 36,000 police officers, and AM New York reported in January that approximately 3,500 of them are assigned to the NYPD's transit bureau. However, the New York Times reported that no officers were present at the Sunset Park station at the time of the shooting, although cops did patrol the station earlier that morning.
Authorities also revealed that the Sunset Park station's security camera was malfunctioning, raising questions about security in the transit system. The New York City subway system has a vast network of surveillance cameras, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority said last September that it had installed cameras at all 472 subway stations.
"If you are a criminal who preys on those who use our system, you will have your image captured and be put on the express track to justice. The image will be delivered to the police, and the police will use it to find you," MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren said at the time.
MTA CEO Janno Lieber told CBS News on Wednesday that the broken camera at the station was due to a possible server issue. Lieber added that there is "an enormous range of video" from other stations on that particular subway line "that there are images of this fellow that are going to be found."
Neither the NYPD nor the mayor's office has control over the subway security cameras, Adams said.
"It's under the control of the state. The camera system is controlled by the MTA," he told WNYC. "They are cooperating with us to assist us in finding out what happened at the train station. We don't have a full understanding of that as of this moment, but that is the control of the MTA."