Person of interest Frank James now a suspect in subway shooting

Law enforcement officers at the scene of a shooting at the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn, on April 12. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Victor J. Blue.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Frank R. James, who was identified by police as a person of interest in Tuesday’s chaotic morning-rush-hour shooting in Brooklyn, is now a suspect.

Keys found at the scene of the subway attack that left 23 injured belong to a U-Haul van rented by James, who has addresses in Philadelphia and the Milwaukee area, police said Tuesday. Detectives were searching for James, who rented the van in Philadelphia.

“Yes he is, he is a suspect, based on the briefing from my law enforcement officials,” Adams said Wednesday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “He has now been upgraded to a suspect.”

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Officials identified a number of social media posts linked to James about Adams, the city and homelessness, findings that prompted the NYPD to increase the mayor’s personal security as he remains isolated with Covid at Gracie Mansion.

“Today was a difficult day in New York,” Adams said at the briefing Tuesday, appearing live virtually on a television screen.

The suspect — identified as a dark-skinned, heavy-set man — set off two smoke grenades on a Manhattan-bound N train and then fired a Glock 17 9 mm handgun at least 33 times. Ten people had gunshot wounds as a rush out of the smoke-filled train car led to injuries among 13 others, police said.

Authorities initially responded to reports of smoke at about 8:30 a.m. at the 36th Street station, which serves the D, N and R lines. Responders encountered wounded commuters along with several undetonated devices. An investigation ensued throughout the day.

The attack set off a massive manhunt involving thousands of NYPD officers. Detectives found 33 shell cases, three extended magazines, two undetonated smoke devices, a hatchet, a rolling cart and a U-Haul key in a bag of belongings the shooter left behind in the subway station. Police said that the van key led investigators to a U-Haul nearby in Brooklyn.

The incident isn’t being investigated as an act of terrorism but the police department isn’t ruling it out, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said earlier. A motive isn’t yet known and five people remain in critical condition. There are no known explosive devices on the subway, and children at five nearby schools who were sheltered in place until dismissal have fully evacuated.

On Tuesday night, after numerous television interviews, Adams sought to frame the violence as an “American problem,” calling the shooting part of a national wave of gun violence hitting cities across the U.S.

Adams staked his campaign for mayor last year on reducing crime and has spent the first 100 days of his administration trying to address a spike in gun violence in the city.

“Days like this are playing out too often in cities across America,” he said. “It’s going to take an entire nation to speak out and push back.”

The incident comes as the city desperately tries to revive tourism, bring back office workers, and boost subway ridership, which remains at around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. Crime, rather than Covid, has kept many New Yorkers at home or off the subways despite Adams’s promises to increase police presence in train stations and throughout the city to blunt an uptick in crime.

The shooting marks the 41st mass shooting event in New York City since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit data project. Mass shooting events are those in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are injured or killed by a firearm. There were 17 mass shooting events in New York City last year.

Adams said earlier that initial reports show that surveillance cameras at the subway station had malfunctioned. The NYPD also said there were no police officers present at the station when the incident occurred, though officers had conducted routine checks earlier that morning.

Officials said they were offering a $50,000 reward for people who call in with more information and continue to investigate two active crime scenes — the subway station and the van. The NYPD, along with members from the FBI and ATF, will continue their hunt for the s

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