Suspect named in US manhunt for New York City subway shooter

Social media posts by the suspected shooter, who is Black, decried racism in the US and called for violent action.

image provided by the New York City Police Department shows a Crime Stoppers bulletin displaying photos of Frank R. James, who has been identified by police as the renter of a U-Haul van possibly connected to the Brooklyn subway shooting.
Frank R James has been identified by police as the renter of a U-Haul van abandoned near a New York subway station after the shooting [Courtesy of NYPD via AP]

New York City authorities have identified a suspect being sought in the shooting on a Brooklyn subway train as Frank R James, a 62-year-old man from Philadelphia who police say had rented a van connected to the incident that left 10 people shot.

Previously identified as a person of interest, James has now been named as the gunman by the New York Police Department in the shooting that happened at about 8:30am (12:30 GMT) on Tuesday during the morning commuter rush.

“Frank Robert James fired numerous gun shots inside an ‘N’ line subway car at 36th & 4th Ave subway station causing serious injuries to 10 people,” the NYPD said in a tweet on Wednesday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, speaking to United States broadcaster National Public Radio (NPR) on Wednesday, cited “new information that became available to the team” for the conclusion that James was the shooter, but did not offer details.

Law enforcement officials have been examining social media posts in which James decried the US as a racist nation awash in violence and, in some posts, railed against Adams.

“This nation was born in violence, it’s kept alive by violence or the threat thereof and it’s going to die a violent death. There’s nothing going to stop that,” James said in one video.

New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the posts “concerning” and officials tightened security for Adams, who was already isolating after a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday.

“We are going to continue to close the loop around him and bring him in, and continue the investigation into this horrific act against innocent New Yorkers,” Adams told MSNBC on Wednesday.

Authorities offered rewards totalling $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the gunman, who they believed acted alone.

Yellow police tape blocks off the entrance to the subway as New York City Police Department personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
New York City Police Department personnel gathered at the entrance to the 36th Street subway stop in  Brooklyn after the attack on Tuesday [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

The gunman sent off smoke grenades in a crowded subway car and then fired at least 33 shots with a 9mm handgun, police said. Five gunshot victims were in critical condition but all 10 wounded in the shooting were expected to survive. At least a dozen others who escaped gunshot wounds were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.

Sewell warned the incident could have been far worse after police found the gun used in the shooting had jammed and extra magazines of ammunition were left behind by the shooter, who fled in the chaos.

“I’m just grateful to be alive,” said passenger Jordan Javier, who thought the first popping sound he heard was a book dropping. Then there was another pop, he said, and people started moving toward the front of the car, and he realised there was smoke.

When the train pulled into the 36th Street station in the Sunset Park neighbourhood, people ran out and were directed to another train across the platform.

A a person is aided outside a subway car in the Brooklyn borough of New York,.
People rushed to aid wounded commuters bleeding on a Brooklyn platform as others ran from the car to another train [Will B Wylde via AP]

Some injured passengers collapsed as they poured out of the smoke-filled subway car onto the platform of the 36th Street station.

The station was open as usual on Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after the violence, and the New York City subway system as a whole was operating normally while police checked backpacks at some stations.

The shooter fled in the chaos, leaving behind the gun, extended magazines, a hatchet, detonated and undetonated smoke grenades, a black garbage can, a rolling cart, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul van, police said.

That key led investigators to James, who has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said. The van was later found, unoccupied, near a station where investigators determined the gunman had entered the subway system, Essig said.

Rambling, profanity-filled YouTube videos apparently posted by James, who is Black, are replete with violent language and bigoted comments, some against other Black people.

In one video, posted a day before the attack, he criticises crime against Black people and says drastic action is needed.

“You got kids going in here now taking machine guns and mowing down innocent people,” James says. “It’s not going to get better until we make it better.”

He added that he thought things would only change if certain people were “stomped, kicked and tortured” out of their “comfort zone”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies