By Manik Mehta
NEW YORK, April 14 – The shooter inside a Brooklyn subway train was arrested on Wednesday, less than 30 hours after he launched the horrendous attack by releasing smoke canisters followed by gunfire on commuters in a train. Frank James, who was initially described by the police as a “person of interest” in the shooting, was later referred to as a suspect by the New York Police Department.
62 year old James, was apprehended without any resistance or incident by police officers in Manhattan’s East Village neighbourhood on Wednesday afternoon.
At a hurriedly-convened press conference after James’ arrest on Wednesday afternoon, New York City Mayor Eric Adams made a brief appearance via video from his quarantine at his official residence Gracie Mansion – he had tested positive for COVID-9 – and thanked the police and all those involved in tracking down the suspect Frank James. Adams exclaimed: ”My fellow New Yorkers, we got him, we got him! … less than 30 hours later, we’re able to say, we got him!”
At the press conference, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell revealed that James was stopped on the street by two officers following a tip the police received on its so-called Crime Stoppers Hotline. He was arrested and transported to an NYPD facility, where a case will be prepared against him after a complete investigation of his motives and establishing other facts of the case.
James, according to the tip, had been seen at a McDonald’s restaurant on 6th Street and 1st Avenue, a police official stated at the press conference. However, he was not there when police officers arrived but saw him around the corner.
According to the latest information, James’ attack injured 29 people, including the 10 wounded by his gunfire. Five of the victims were school goers on their way to school, as New York state governor Kathy Hochul said.
A $ 50,000 reward leading to his arrest was offered; the suspect, according to police, had addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia.
Indeed, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig revealed that James was known to police and had an extensive arrest history that included nine prior arrests, between 1992 and 1998, on a wide range of charges from burglary and criminal sex acts to trespassing and disorderly conduct. But he had no prior felony convictions and was not known to the FBI.
Essig said that committing the assault James boarded another train to get out after one stop and exited at 25th Street.
Police recovered a handgun, three magazines, two detonated smoke grenades, two undetonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline and the U-Haul keys at the scene.
The gun was purchased legally by James in Ohio in 2011, Essig said.
James has been charged under a complaint filed at the Brooklyn federal court with violating a law that prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks against a mass transportation system, according to Breon Peace, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
If convicted, he faces life imprisonment, Peace said.
While the motive behind his assault is not fully established, police said that James had uploaded several YouTube videos in which he talked, among other things, about killing people who have presumably hurt him.
In another video posted last week, James ranted about abuse in churches and racism in the workplace, resorting to misogynistic and racist language. Many of the videos that James uploaded included references to violence, including at a set group of people who, he claimed, had treated him badly.
Yet, in another video posted last month, James said that he had post-traumatic stress, narrating that he had left his home in Milwaukee on March 20. During the trip eastward, he said he was heading to the “danger zone”. “You know, it’s triggering a lot of negative thoughts of course,” he said in the video. “I do have a severe case of post-traumatic stress.”
In a video posted in February, he also criticized a plan by Mayor Adams’ administration to address safety and homelessness in the subway, partly, by increasing number of mental-health professionals.
The New York subway shooting has also turned attention to the mental condition of people who, combined with homelessness, are viewed by many as a major health and social problem in the city. Many New Yorkers, as apparent from their comments on television, newspapers and social media, see the attack voiced their worst fears that like the commuters trapped inside the train compartment with a mentally unstable perpetrator releasing smoke from canisters and firing shots from handgun, they could also be trapped someday in a similar situation.
Several television commentators and other experts said that the suspect in the train assault, obviously, had mental health issues as he addressed the mayor in a video: “Mr. Mayor, I’m a victim of your mental-health programme.” James admitted at age 62, he was “full of hate, full of anger and full of bitterness”. New York’s subway, as one female commuter said when quizzed by a reporter, that it had “turned in a theater of horror” This is a common feeling among New Yorkers, particularly those relying on the subway to commute long distances – whether to work, to school and for any other business.
The cry to get the mental health and rising homelessness problem in New York fixed has got louder since the Brooklyn subway attack of Tuesday. New York’s politicians, including the state’s governor Kathy Hochul, feel the pressure as they prepare to contest the state election in November.