Former FBI manager: Ruling out terrorism in NY ‘naïve’

CHICAGO (NewsNation) — Police officials are not investigating the subway shooting in Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday morning as a terrorist attack.

But Danny Coulson, a former deputy assistant director in the FBI, believes it’s too early to rule out any of the possible motives for the shooter.

“That’s just naïve people not knowing what they’re doing,” Coulson said Tuesday as a guest of “On Balance with Leland Vittert.” He referenced the synagogue attack in Colleyville, Texas.

“They said that wasn’t terrorism, they were emphatic.”

“So you shouldn’t say anything,” Coulson said. “If you don’t know don’t say.”

The New York Police Department identified Frank James, 62, as a person of interest in the case. Investigators have not directly linked him to the shooting, but say he rented a U-Haul from Philadelphia that was involved in the attack. A U-Haul key was found among evidence at the scene.

Additionally, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell reports there are concerning social media posts connected to James.

“Based on some preliminary information, there are some postings possibly connected to our person of interest where he mentions homelessness, he mentions New York and he does mention Mayor (Eric) Adams,” Sewell said.

As a result of the posts, the police department is heightening the mayor’s security detail out of an abundance of caution.

At the subway shooting scene, investigators recovered a 9mm handgun, extended magazines, a hatchet, liquid believed to be gasoline, the U-Haul key, what’s believed to be consumer grade fireworks in a bag and a fuse.

“This was not only planned. I guarantee he rehearsed this,” Coulson said.

“He had to launch his attack at just the right moment. If he launches it too soon, then something happens (and) he can’t get out. If he launches it too late, he loses the confinement of his victims. So he timed this absolutely perfectly,” he continued.

If not terrorism, police have not determined any other motive for the violence. Phil Andrew, NewsNation contributor and a former FBI agent, said it is difficult to tie the violence to any terrorist group at this point.

“Early indicators are that this might be a lone actor,” Andrew said Tuesday on “Rush Hour.”

Andrew said the subway is a “soft” target because it lacks regular security, and the gun the shooter used is common. He said terrorist investigations usually have some type of intelligence to trace back to, whether it be a threat or eyewitness information.

“For me, this suggests that this a bit opportunist — maybe targeted — or somebody that is emotionally disturbed. But early indications are that this isn’t terrorist-related and we don’t expect additional attacks,” he said. 

“They may still have a motivation that’s (political), but it doesn’t seem to be connected to a larger terrorist organization,” he continued.

Coulson is confident police will find the person responsible.

“Right now, he is absolutely terrified,“ he said. “However afraid you’ve been in your life in the past, he’s 10 times more frightened than you’ve ever been, and that’s going to help them catch him,” he said.

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