Law and order: NYC subway shooting charges explained


(NewsNation) — The 62-year-old man whom police suspect of opening fire on a New York Subway train was arrested and charged with a federal crime — terrorist attacks or other violence against a mass transportation system.

Frank R. James was stopped and taken into custody by NYPD officers Wednesday afternoon, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

Officials did not say that James had ties to a terror organization.

“The statute is titled Terrorism and Other Violent Attacks on Mass Transportation. There’s a federal interest, of course, in protecting mass transportation hubs and infrastructure,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “And so that’s the jurisdiction. But we were not going to comment further. … We’re still investigating the motive.”

The laws he’s accused of violating

James is charged in Brooklyn federal court under a law that addresses attacks against mass transportation systems.

Specifically, he’s accused of using a dangerous weapon with the intent to cause death or serious injury. If convicted, he would face up to life in prison.

Although the FBI tracks data on domestic terrorism, U.S. law doesn’t recognize it as an official crime you can be charged with, according to the think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Instead, people tend to be charged with the specific acts they’re accused of committing.

The actions he’s accused of taking

Those charges against James stem from allegations that he shot 10 people and injured more on Tuesday at a Brooklyn subway station.

Police have said that after boarding the train, James activated a smoke grenade and fired 33 rounds,

The gun jammed just before the shooter dropped the weapon and fled the car, according to witnesses.

A preliminary investigation showed that James boarded another train, went one stop up, and exited at the 25th Street station, New York Police Chief James Essig said during a news briefing Wednesday.

Crime scene photos obtained by NewsNation show the gun James allegedly left behind: a 9-millimeter Glock-17 with an extended magazine with rounds still inside on a seat of a subway car, a hatchet on the floor nearby. He also allegedly left a bag with consumer-grade fireworks inside and gasoline in close proximity.

A key that was left at the scene led officers to a U-Haul truck they say James rented in Philadelphia, which officers later found about three blocks from the Kings Highway subway station.

Investigators believe James purchased the gun in 2007 in Ohio. Although he had multiple run-ins with the law, James had no felony convictions at the time, Essig said.

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