NEW YORK — The man charged in the Brooklyn subway shooting will be held without bail, a judge ordered during his first appearance in federal court Thursday after a more than 24-hour hunt led to his arrest the day before.
Frank R. James, 62, was charged with a terrorist or other violent attack against a mass transportation system.
In the brief hearing Thursday, James appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann in Brooklyn, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. James said nothing beyond telling the judge that he understood the charges against him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Winik cited the magnitude of the charges against the alleged shooter, saying he is dangerous to the community.
“The defendant terrifyingly opened fire on passengers on a crowded subway train, interrupting their morning commute in a way the city hasn’t seen in ore than 20 years,” Winik said. “The defendant’s attack was premeditated, was carefully planned, and it caused terror among the victims and our entire city.”
Federal public defenders Deirdre von Dornum and Mia Eisner-Grynberg, who are representing James, agreed to the detention order and asked the judge to seek a psychiatric evaluation of James.
Mann agreed to the request but, at Winik’s request, made clear that the evaluation would not be an examination to determine whether James would be competent to stand trial.
NIGHTMARE ON THE N TRAIN:Inside the terrifying moments of the Brooklyn attack
FRANK JAMES:What we know about the suspect arrested in the Brooklyn shooting
James is accused of carrying out the attack that left at least 29 people injured, including 10 with gunshot wounds, after he donned a gas mask, threw smoke grenades and opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N train around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, authorities say.
The shooting set off a search for James who fled via another train at the Sunset Park subway station, police said, and evaded capture for more than a day.
New York City Police Department patrol officers arrested him Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan’s East Village after a tip came into the department’s “crime stoppers” line. According to law enforcement officials who weren’t authorized to comment publicly, it was who James called the “crime stoppers” line to report he was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan.
James presents ‘severe, ongoing danger to the community,’ prosecutor says
In a letter filed with the court before the hearing, assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Winik argued that James “presents a severe and ongoing danger to the community and a serious risk of flight,” legal factors that are considered in bail decisions.
Winik also argued that the attack was “entirely premeditated,” citing that James is accused of picking up a U-Haul in Pennsylvania before driving to Brooklyn.
Winik said he also “came to Brooklyn prepared with all of the weapons and tools he needed to carry out the mass attack,” including a Glock 17 pistol, a container of gasoline, a torch, fireworks with explosive powder, and a disguise composed of a yellow hard hat and an orange working jacket.
James was previously charged in ’90s with making terroristic threats in New Jersey
James had been arrested in Essex County, New Jersey, 27 years ago for making terroristic threats, according to the prosecutor’s office.
At the time, James, now 62, was charged with making terroristic threats during an incident in Fairfield, said Katherine Carter, a spokesperson for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. In the 1995 matter, James was convicted of the lesser charge of harassment and sentenced to probation for one year.
James had at least nine prior arrests in New York and at least three in New Jersey, NYPD said.
— Nicholas Katzban, NorthJersey.com
Videos shed light on suspects’ travel, employment history
Hundreds of videos on James’ YouTube channel reveal more information about him, including his travels from Milwaukee to the East Coast during the last month and his employment history.
In one video from 2021, James is seen wearing an Amazon cap. The company confirmed to USA TODAY that James worked for Amazon a year ago for a six-month period.
The videos also cover James’ thoughts on a wide range of topics such as systemic racism, Russia’s war in Ukraine, city job training and mental health care initiatives, and other mass shootings, including a shooting at the Molson Coors Beverage Company in Milwaukee on Feb. 26, 2020. Read more here.
James arrived in New York City on day of attack, had gasoline and torch on train, complaint says
After James rented a U-Haul van in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon, police surveillance cameras captured photos of him entering Brooklyn on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge after 4 a.m. Tuesday, according to an unsealed federal criminal complaint. The U-Haul crossed state lines from Pennsylvania to New Jersey then onto New York, the complaint says.
When James arrived in Brooklyn, he parked within blocks of an N train subway station, and surveillance video showed him walking in an orange work coat and yellow construction hat as he carried a backpack and pulled another bag along with him, the complaint says.
‘NOTHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS HERE’:Subway attack shocks Sunset Park, a hub for working-class immigrants
After the shooting, a surveillance camera captured an image of James, exiting the subway one stop north the 36th Street Station, the complaint says. NYPD previously said James reentered the subway in Park Slope after the shooting.
Police recovered the work jacket along with other items from the scene, including a plastic gas container, a torch, a U-Haul key, multiple bank cards, fireworks and a firearm – a Glock 17 that James legally purchased in Ohio with its serial number apparently attempted to be defaced.
Police also executed search warrants at a storage unit and apartment James had rented and found additional ammo and magazines, including for a rifle. No rifle was found but the complain says James may have had “access to additional firearms.”
Investigators still seeking motive in attack
Days after the shooting, police have provided few clues as to what prompted the gunman to open fire. The unsealed criminal complaint mentions James’ YouTube videos, which police in New York had previously referenced.
In one video, James mentions Mayor Adams and people experiencing homelessness on the city’s subway trains, according to the court document. “What are you doing, brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation?” James said, referring to the mayor.
James also threatened violence in his videos, including saying he wanted to shoot up a subway train, according to the complaint.
How James’ arrest unfolded
About 30 hours after the carnage on the subway, James called the city’s “crime stoppers” line to report he was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan, law enforcement officials said. He told them to come and get him, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
But when officers got to the location, he was not at the restaurant, said NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey.
“They start driving around the neighborhood looking for him. They see him on the corner of St. Mark’s (Place) and First (Avenue), and they take him into custody,” Corey said.
HOW THE ARREST OCCURRED:‘Everyday New Yorkers’ say they helped police find Brooklyn shooting suspect
Meanwhile, Zach Tahhan said he was repairing a camera system at Saifee Hardware and Garden Store, just a few doors down from the McDonalds, when he noticed someone who appeared to be James walking by. A manager at the store, Frank Puebla, was outside with him. They looked at one another and knew it was the man whose face had been plastered across the news and online.
“My eyes went just to his face and I noticed that was the guy,” Puebla said in an interview inside the store.
They saw a nearby police car and flagged officers. “Yo! This is the guy!” Tahhan said he yelled to police. The pair watched in disbelief as officers detained James.
Police did not say where James had been after the attack and before his capture.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Swapna Venugopal, Kevin McCoy, Grace Hauck, Gabriela Miranda and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press