Brooklyn subway attack: Police arrest 62-year-old 'Prophet of Doom', faces federal terrorism charges

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The man accused of shooting 10 people on a Brooklyn subway train was arrested on 13 April, 2022, and charged with a federal terrorism offense after the suspect called police to come get him, law enforcement officials said.

Frank R. James, 62, was taken into custody about 30 hours after the violence on a rush-hour train, which left people around the city on edge.

“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him," Mayor Eric Adams said.

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

An erratic work history. Arrests for a string of mostly low-level crimes. A storage locker with more ammo. And hours of rambling, bigoted, profanity-laced videos on his YouTube channel that point to a deep, simmering anger.

James had worked at a variety of manufacturing and other jobs, according to his videos. Police said he'd been arrested 12 times in New York and New Jersey between 1990 and 2007 on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to possession of burglary tools, but he has no felony convictions.

James posted dozens of videos ranting about race, violence and his struggles with mental illness.

His hours of disjointed, expletive-filled videos range from current events, to his life story, to bigoted remarks about people of various backgrounds.

Some videos complain about Adams, mental health care James says he got in the city years ago, and conditions on the subway. In one post, he fulminates about trains filled with homeless people, the court complaint noted.

“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,” says James in a video where he takes on the moniker “Prophet of Doom.”

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.

James detonated two smoke grenades and fired at least 33 shots with a 9 mm handgun in a subway car packed with commuters, police said.

When the first smoke bomb went off, a passenger asked what he was doing, according to a witness account to police.

“Oops,” James said, set off a second, then brandished the gun and opened fire, Chief of Detectives James Essig said.

When the train stopped at a station and terrified riders fled, James apparently hopped another train — the same one many were steered to for safety, police said. He got out at the next station, disappearing into the nation’s most populous city.

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, moved among Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.

Police had urged the public to help find him, releasing his name and photo and even sending a cellphone alert before they got a tip Wednesday.

The tipster was James, calling to say he knew he was wanted and that police could find him at a McDonald’s in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, two law enforcement officials said. They weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

James was gone when officers arrived, but he was soon spotted on a busy corner nearby, Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said.

Investigators said 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 cannister.

James was born in New York but had lived recently in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, authorities said. Bruce Allen, a neighbor near a Philadelphia apartment where James stayed for the last couple of weeks, said the man never spoke to him, even when moving in.

With inputs from agencies

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Brooklyn subway attack: Police arrest 62-year-old 'Prophet of Doom', faces federal terrorism charges
Brooklyn subway attack: Police arrest 62-year-old 'Prophet of Doom', faces federal terrorism charges
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