The man police arrested Wednesday in the Brooklyn subway shooting that left about two dozen people injured has criminal records in at least two states and posted numerous videos online with violent themes.
Frank Robert James, 62, was arrested Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
James contacted police himself to come and get him at a McDonald's, two law enforcement who weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press.
James faces a federal terrorism charge of targeting a mass transit system, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Breon Peace, said. There is no indication James had ties to terror organizations – international or otherwise – and the motive remains unclear, Peace said.
James, a New York City-area native, also has ties to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio, Chief of Detectives James Essig said. He has nine prior arrests in New York and three in New Jersey, Essig said.
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At least 10 people were shot and 19 others taken to hospitals for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to shrapnel wounds after a gunman opened fire on a Manhattan-bound train arriving at a Brooklyn subway station during rush hour Tuesday morning.
The shooter donned a gas mask before setting off two smoke canisters and firing 33 times with a Glock 17 9mm semi-handgun, which was found in the subway car, police said. James purchased the firearm in Ohio in 2011 and had no felony convictions, Essig said.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY authorities were reviewing several social media pages, including YouTube videos appearing to feature James ranting and talking about wanting to commit violence.
"The investigation is continuing into the motive, into his social media postings," Essig said.
Prior arrests in New York and New Jersey, a storage locker in Philly
James is "known" to police, Essig said. He has nine prior arrests in New York, dating from 1992 to 1998. He was arrested four times for possession of burglary tools, once for a criminal sex act, twice for theft of service, once on a New Jersey warrant and once for criminal tampering, Essig said.
James has three prior arrests in New Jersey, in 1991, 1992 and 2007, Essig said. He was arrested for trespass, larceny and disorderly conduct, Essig said.
Federal court documents unsealed Wednesday contained a picture of the firearm recovered by authorities and traced to James, which shows that an attempt was made to remove the serial number sometime before the weapon was discarded.
Federal authorities also located a storage facility in Philadelphia, registered to James, where they recovered a cache of 9mm ammunition, a pistol barrel for the use of a silencer, targets and an undisclosed amount of .223 caliber ammunition used for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. According to court documents, James allegedly visited the storage unit the evening before the attack.
YouTube videos discuss mass shooting, NYC subway system
Numerous videos posted to James' YouTube channel provide insight into James' travels in recent months and his views on a range of topics, from systemic racism to Russia's war in Ukraine.
Some videos focus on New York City's subway trains. One video includes a clip from the 1967 movie "The Incident." Based on a play called "Ride With Terror," the clip shows two people who terrorize 14 passengers in a New York City subway car.
In a January video – called "Dear Mr. Mayor" – James is critical of Adams’ plans for subway safety and ending gun violence and says the mayor's job training and mental health care initiatives are "doomed to fail." James says that suppressed rage over what he describes as decades-old mistreatment in Bronx mental health programs and a Queens job training program could cause him to explode.
Adams, responding in an NY1 interview to James' social media complaints about perceived mistreatment in mental health and job training programs, said anger "does not give you the right" to enter the subway system and shoot innocent riders.
"You do not have that right, and I am not going to succumb to any person who believe they can attempt to harm New Yorkers because they are angry," Adams said. "So I'm not accepting his YouTube videos. I'm not accepting his behavior. New Yorkers do not do that. And we are going to hold him accountable."
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it can't comment on anyone's mental health treatment, even whether they were treated, without consent.
In the video, James claims he trained in a city-run program where he learned to work in a machine shop in 1992. He says he became an apprentice in a shop in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, but was fired after two years, around the time that a tax credit for his job expired.
In a separate video, James points viewers to what appears to be a New York Department of Employment card and talks about being involved in a machinists training program. The New York Department of Labor did not immediately respond to a USA TODAY request for comment.
Another video on the channel focuses on the mass shooting at the Molson Coors Beverage Company in Milwaukee on Feb. 26, 2020, when a 52-year-old electrician fatally shot five co-workers and killed himself. In a video uploaded the following day, James says it happened "in my town" and that it was a "very important factoid" that the gunman was Black.
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In one video from 2021, James wears an Amazon cap. Amazon confirmed James worked for the company a year ago for a six-month period.
Videos posted to the channel in recent weeks suggest James drove from Milwaukee to the East Coast last month.
In videos posted March 18 and 20, James says he was packing a rental van to prepare for a multi-day drive. He states he cleaned out his apartment in Wisconsin, emptied his storage unit, stayed in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was driving to Philadelphia, where he says he booked a hotel. He said he planned to drop his van off in Newark, New Jersey.
In a video posted the day before the attack, James said he wanted to harm people. "I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to watch people die," he said.
Federal prosecutors took note of James's social media complaints and threats. The federal court complaint against him states that James "also made statements, in sum and substance, about various conspiracy theories."
U-Haul key connected James to shooting
Items left behind in the New York City subway car linked James to the attack, investigators said.
Police found two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul van on the train. Investigators believe James rented the van in Philadelphia, and police found it later Tuesday in Brooklyn, Essig said.
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James has a residential address in Philadelphia, said Brian O’Hearn, spokesperson for Philadelphia Police Public Affairs. O’Hearn would not provide the exact location, due to departmental policy.
James' apparent address was leaked to the public, he said, and Philadelphia officers were dealing with angry individuals confronting James' mother and other relatives at the location.
Neighbor describes Frank James as 'angry, loud and alone'
Keilah Miller, who lived across from James in a Milwaukee duplex, said she was filled with fear to see her neighbor’s photograph being circulated in connection with the New York subway attack.
Miller, a receptionist and early childhood education teacher, told USA TODAY that James lived in an adjacent apartment for about six to eight months. She described him as "angry, loud and alone."
"I always heard a lot of yelling, but I never saw anyone else go into the apartment but him," Miller said Wednesday.
The first time she spoke to him was during the winter when she left her key in the door, she said. "I hear this banging on the door, and he’s there saying, 'Don’t do that!' That was the only time we spoke. It was weird. He was just not approachable."
When she learned of James’ connection to the New York attack, Miller said she immediately "packed a bag and left."
"I’m scared to go back home until someone says the place is clear," Miller said, adding that she has been staying with a friend.
James' sister, Catherine James Robinson, told the New York Times her brother had "been on his own his whole life" and that she had little contact with him. USA TODAY contacted Robinson's home phone Wednesday but a woman hung up shortly after answering the call.
Robinson told the Times her brother was born in the Bronx and that he often moved from city to city. She told the outlet she was "surprised" to see her brother named as a suspect in the shooting.
"I don’t think he would do anything like that," she told the Times. "That’s not in his nature to do anything like that."
Contributing: Christal Hayes, Claire Thornton and Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Damon Williams, Bucks County Courier Times; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Frank James, Brooklyn subway shooting suspect arrested: What we know