NEW YORK — The man police initially called a “person of interest” in the Brooklyn subway shooting attack is now a suspect, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday morning.
Frank James, 62, is being sought in the connection to the chaotic shooting Tuesday that left dozens injured during morning rush hour. The New York City Police Department confirmed James was now considered a suspect and that no arrests had been made early Wednesday.
Adams made the comment during a radio interview with WNYC. His press secretary, Fabien Levy, later tweeted the mayor “just announced that Frank James is now a suspect in yesterday’s subway shooting and no longer just a person of interest.”
Levy said the change in James’ status resulted from advances in the police investigation overnight. He did not elaborate.
Police officials identified James on Tuesday, initially stopping short of saying he was a suspect in the shooting. NYPD is now seeking public assistance to try to locate, sharing new photos and offering a reward up to $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.
HOW THE SHOOTING UNFOLDED:Photos, videos show chaos of Brooklyn subway attack
Around two dozen people were injured, but none fatally, in the shooting on a Manhattan-bound train arriving at a Sunset Park subway station, said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell on Tuesday.
The shooter donned a gas mask before setting off two smoke grenades and opening fire while still on the train, police said. The gunman fired 33 times with a Glock 17 9mm semi-handgun, which was also found in the subway, said Chief of Detectives James Essig said. At least 10 people were shot and at least 19 others were taken to hospitals for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to shrapnel wounds.
Neighbor: Suspect was ‘angry, loud and alone’
A neighbor who lived across the street from the shooting suspect in a Milwaukee duplex said he struck her as “angry, loud and alone” for the sixth to eight months they lived near each other.
Keilah Miller told USA TODAY that James lived in an adjacent apartment. She often heard yelling but no one ever enter the apartment with James. “He was just not approachable,” she said.
Miller interacted with James once when she left her keys in the door. She said he banged on her door “and he’s there saying, ‘Don’t do that!'”
Miller said she left her apartment Tuesday after seeing police circulate James’ photos while he remains at large.
Benkada said he heard a woman shout she was pregnant so he went up to help her. He hugged her as the crowd in the train rushed to the back. Benkada said he was pushed and then felt the gunshot in the leg.
People on the train struggled to open the doors to other cars to try to escape the smoke and shooting, Benkada told CNN. He didn’t initially think his wound was serious, but when he got off the train and looked at his leg, “the size of a quarter is gushing out blood” around his knee, he said.
Benkada said he was sitting next to the shooter but didn’t recognize the photos of James that police released. The shooter was wearing a mask, Benkada said.
“I don’t think I could ever ride a train again,” Benkada said.
The head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday there was a problem with a security camera server at the 36th Street subway station where the train stopped.
“It seems like that one (camera) had a server problem,” meaning the camera wasn’t sending images to the NYPD, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber told NY1. Appearing on CBS, Lieber said the camera was near a turnstile at the station, but there were 600 cameras throughout the N train line Brooklyn.
“There are images of this fellow that are going to be found,” Lieber said.
The MTA has cameras in all subway stations but not necessarily on each station’s platform, where riders board and get off trains.
Essig said the N train was between the stations at 59th and 36th streets when the shooting began. The shooter was in the second car in the rear corner, and he fled after the train pulled into the station, Essig said.
IS IT TERRORISM? Brooklyn shooting is not being investigated as terrorism ‘at this time.’ Here’s why.
Police looking into YouTube videos, threats of violence appearing to be tied to person of interest
Police found two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul van on the train. Investigators believe James rented the van in Philadelphia and police found it later Tuesday in Brooklyn, Essig said.
WHERE IS SUNSET PARK:Subway attack shocks Sunset Park, a hub for working-class immigrants: ‘Nothing like this happens here’
Sewell said police are investigating a number of social media posts appearing to come from James where he mentioned homelessness and Adams. The mayor’s security detail would be tightened out of an “abundance of caution,” she said.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY authorities were reviewing several social media pages, including YouTube videos appearing to feature James discussing a variety of issues from Black rights and slavery to the recent mass shooting in Sacramento and the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
The videos touch on themes of violence, systemic racism and Black superiority. One video posted the day before the attack, the man in the videos said he wanted to harm people. “I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to watch people die.”
Other videos police are reviewing include clips from New York’s subway trains. In a February, a video mentioned the city’s subway safety plan. The man says the plan “is doomed for failure” and refers to himself as a “victim” of the mayor’s mental health program. A January video — called “Dear Mr. Mayor” — is somewhat critical of Adams’ plan to end gun violence, which has become an early focus of the Democrat’s first term in office.
Eric Adams: City will look into metal detectors for subways
Adams said during an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday morning the city was exploring all “legal” technologies to keep the subways safe and detect any potential weapons entering the system.
Asked about adding metal detectors, Adams said it was a possibility but said the detectors would not be like the ones common at airports, rather less invasive technologies that riders may not even notice.
Adams said a safe and reliable subway system was essential for New York City. “It’s the lifeblood of our city. It’s the great equalizer,” he said on MSNBC.
The attack sparked fears in riders taking the nation’s subway system. Police in other major U.S. cities increased their presence in public transit as a result.
In Sunset Park, residents were shocked their working-class, predominately immigrant neighborhood became the center of a violent attack Tuesday.
“Violence on the subway isn’t new to our area, but seeing so many people so terrified and so many people saying they saw people covered in blood, it’s crazy,” said Rogelio Miranda, a cashier at a supermarket near the Brooklyn subway stop.
“Nothing like this happens here,” said Rosario Moreno, who lived in Sunset Park for 17 years. “I feel lost and scared.”
Sunset Park was once predominantly home to Scandinavian immigrants until people from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic began arriving before 1970, followed later by Mexicans and more Central Americans.
Chinese immigrants looking to settle and start businesses outside of the city’s crowded Chinatown began settling in the area during the late 1980s. They often told newcomers from China taking the trains from Manhattan to get out at the “blue sky stop,” a reference to Sunset Park, where the subway lines emerged from tunnels into the open air.
Contributing: Kevin McCoy, Gabriela Miranda, Swapna Venugopal and N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY; Eduardo Cuevas, Rockland/Westchester Journal News