Brooklyn subway shooting suspect ordered held without bail

Northeast

BROOKLYN (NewsNation) — Frank R. James, the man arrested after a 30-hour manhunt in connection to the Brooklyn subway shooting that wounded 10 people, has been ordered held without bail in his initial federal court appearance Thursday.

Court documents show federal prosecutors on Thursday asked that James be held without bail pending trial, saying he presents a flight risk and ongoing danger to the community.

Prosecutors called the shooting premeditated and calculated, writing in court papers, “He fired approximately 33 rounds in cold blood at terrified passengers who had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.”

James was represented by two public defenders, who requested that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Even as police arrested James, they’re still searching for a motive from a flood of details about the 62-year-old Black man’s life.

James was arrested Wednesday after a tipster — thought by police to be James himself — said he could be found near a McDonald’s on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Mayor Eric Adams triumphantly proclaimed, “We got him!”

Police said their top priority was getting the suspect, now charged with a federal crime — terrorist attacks or other violence against a mass transportation system. However, officials noted he does not have ties to known terrorist organizations.

Criminal Defense Attorney Steve Fagan appeared on NewsNation’s Rush Hour to explain what it takes for this kind of federal charge to be filed.

“It’s terrorism on mass transit, so you need mass transportation, which you obviously have. Another element which is really important to get something like this even started is the idea or report that Frank James crossed state lines in preparation for this.  That’s one of the two elements that really are prerequisites to pursue him with this kind of federal charge,” Fagan said.

The U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of New York has taken over the prosecution of the case.

Surveillance cameras spotted James entering the subway system turnstiles Tuesday morning, dressed as a maintenance or construction worker in a yellow hard hat and orange working jacket with reflective tape.

Police say fellow riders heard him say only “oops” as he set off one smoke grenade in a crowded subway car as it rolled into a station. He then set off a second smoke grenade and started firing, police said. In the smoke and chaos that ensued, police say James made his getaway by slipping into a train that pulled in across the platform and exited after the first stop.

Left behind at the scene was 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, and clues to a life of setbacks and anger as he bounced among factory and maintenance jobs, got fired at least twice, and moved between Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.

Investigators also found a prime trove of evidence in his YouTube videos. James had 12 prior arrests in New York and New Jersey from 1990 to 2007, including for possession of burglary tools, criminal sex act, trespassing, larceny and disorderly conduct.

James had no felony convictions and was not prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm. Police said the gun used in the attack was legally purchased at an Ohio pawn shop in 2011. A search of James’ Philadelphia storage unit and apartment turned up at least two types of ammunition, including the kind used with an AR-15 assault-style rifle, a taser and a blue smoke canister.

Police said James was born and raised in New York City. In his videos, he said he finished a machine shop course in 1983, then worked as a gear machinist at Curtiss-Wright, an aerospace manufacturer in New Jersey, until 1991, when he was he was hit by a one-two punch of bad news: He was fired from his job and, soon after, his father, with whom he had lived in New Jersey, died.

Records show James filed a complaint against the aerospace company in federal court soon after he lost his job, alleging racial discrimination, but it was dismissed a year later by a judge. He says in one video, without offering specifics, that he “couldn’t get any justice for what I went through.”

A spokesperson for Curtiss-Wright didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

In the videos, James describes going in and out of several mental health facilities, including two in the Bronx borough of New York City in the 1970s.

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