Friday, May 20, 2022


“New Yorkers, we got him.” Thirty hours after a New York subway shooting that left 10 people wounded by gunfire and heightened the sense of insecurity in a public transportation system already shaken by fears, New York Mayor Eric Adams announced with a clear tone of relief Wednesday the arrest of Frank Robert James, the 62-year-old black man identified as a suspect in the shooting.

The arrest took place in the East Village neighborhood thanks to a call from a citizen who had seen James at a nearby McDonalds. The tip, perhaps earning that citizen the $50,000 reward that had been offered for information leading to the suspect, put police on patrol, who found James two blocks north. He put up no resistance and was taken into custody and transported to a police station.

His arrest brings to an end the intensive search operation that was launched on Tuesday, and now opens a court proceeding in which he will face federal charges, including use of a dangerous weapon to cause death and serious injury to passengers and employees on the public transportation system.

This is not James’ first run-in with the law. As authorities explained at a press conference, he had a record in several states, including New York, where he had been arrested nine times before between 1992 and 1998 for various offenses, including at least one for a criminal sexual act and several linked to robberies.

None of those charges should have carried a criminal conviction because authorities also explained Wednesday that James legally purchased in Ohio in 2011 the nine-millimeter Glock semiautomatic pistol with which he fired at least 33 shots into the N line subway car heading into Manhattan full in the morning rush hour on Tuesday after throwing two smoke grenades and flooding Sunset Park in Brooklyn with terror. The gun, as well as three magazines, an axe, gasoline and fireworks were located in the subway, along with the keys to a moving van he had rented in Philadelphia.

As explained by New York Chief of Detectives James Essig, James is believed to have fled the station at 36th Street by getting like many other terrified passengers onto another R line train that was on the platform across the street and then got off at the 25th Street station, from which he fled on foot. He was seen at night in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. And his whereabouts were unknown until he has been located and arrested at noon in Manhattan.

Just as there was no longer any doubt that James was the alleged perpetrator of the shooting, there was no longer any doubt that a long series of disturbing videos on YouTube belonged to him, which the platform has removed this Wednesday by suspending James’ account, which operated under the name “Prophet of Truth”, for “violating community guidelines”. These are recordings he began posting two years ago, with the latest dated just this Monday, in which he launched racially charged tirades, both against whites and blacks, and misogyny, as well as messages of anger, violence and threats. “We need to see more mass shootings,” he said in one of the recordings.

In some of the videos, made earlier this year, James also attacked New York City Mayor Adams, a fact that has led to the precautionary reinforcement of protection for the mayor, who has been confined for three days after testing positive for covid-19. James questioned Adams’ plans to reduce the presence of homeless people in the subway and crime in the subway and assured that they were “destined to fail”.

James also claimed to suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder and to have been “victimized” by New York’s support system for people with mental disorders in a crisis.

In one of the videos recorded recently after leaving Milwaukee (in Wisconsin) for Philadelphia (in Pennsylvania), two cities where he had known addresses, James claimed he was heading into the “danger zone.” And in another recorded Monday he said, “I’ve been through a lot of shit where I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to see people die in front of my fucking face immediately. But I thought about the fact that, man, I don’t want to go to fucking jail.”

The search for James had been complicated by glitches in security cameras on the subway network but investigators have come into possession of footage recorded at other stations as well as by passengers who were riding in the carriage he attacked. The incident has also rekindled Adams’ interest in exploring the installation of technology that could help detect the presence of firearms on the subway, although the mayor’s office has had to clarify that the idea of using metal detectors similar to those at airports is ruled out for now.