(NEW YORK) — Frank James, the man accused of opening fire on a subway train in Brooklyn, visited multiple Manhattan neighborhoods, including a stop at the famous Katz’s Delicatessen, as the NYPD scoured the city for him, according to police sources.
James, 62, was arrested in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said, more than 24 hours after 10 people were shot on a crowded N subway as the train pulled into Brooklyn’s 36th Street Station. Twenty-nine people were wounded overall in the chaos.
Police recovered James’ phone, credit card and MetroCard at the scene of the shooting, but he had a second phone and second MetroCard which police are now using to track his movements after he eluded capture at the scene of the crime, police sources told ABC News.
After the mass shooting during Tuesday morning’s rush hour, James switched subway trains, from the N to the R, and got off the train at the 25th Street Station around 8:35 a.m., sources said. He then took the B67 bus to Park Slope, where he bought a new mask and entered the 7th Avenue subway station at 9:18 a.m.
James made it into Manhattan and, sometime Tuesday night, checked into the Chelsea International Hostel on West 20th Street, sources said.
He emerged sometime Wednesday morning and began wandering the streets of Lower Manhattan, hiding in plain sight, sources said.
Multiple sightings began at around 10:30 a.m., when he was spotted sitting outside Dimes, a restaurant in Chinatown, sources said. Witnesses took pictures of him sitting, apparently using a Link NYC hub to charge his phone, and posted to social media, tagging police, sources said.
A few hours later, James was spotted getting lunch at Katz’s on the Lower East Side, sources said.
Just after 1 p.m. Wednesday, James called Crime Stoppers on himself, saying he was in the East Village at a McDonald’s at East 6th Street and First Avenue, according to sources. James reportedly said: “I think you’re looking for me. I’m seeing my picture all over the news and I’ll be around this McDonald’s.”
By the time police arrived, James had already left the McDonald’s. But a good Samaritan spotted James nearby on St. Mark’s Place and First Avenue and flagged down police, sources said.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams held an event Friday honoring the transit employees involved in the subway shooting response.
“New York City showed the entire globe what our city is and has always been about: courage, heroism, quick thinking and decisive action,” said Adams, who appeared virtually as he remains quarantined with COVID-19.
“No passenger was left behind, no lives were lost. And thanks to you, our city keeps running every day,” the mayor said.
Adams also thanked all New Yorkers for mobilizing at different levels, from the educators at nearby schools to the doctors and nurses at local hospitals to the civilians who “rushed to the aid of their fellow passengers.”
Earl Phillips, secretary-treasurer for Transit Workers Union Local 100, praised the subway operators and conductors who he said took charge during the active shooter situation.
“At any given minute they were either directing passengers, making announcements, moving their trains, taking police into tunnels to look for the shooter,” or communicating with emergency responders, he said.
Conductor Raven Haynes told ABC News Live that as the subway pulled into the station, she saw the second car fill with smoke and “passengers falling out of the train and onto the platform floor.”
“I directed the passengers that we had a smoke condition and to board the train coming in across the platform,” she said. “My partner realized that there were injured passengers that physically got onto the train, and he made sure the train was stopped so that we can get medical.”
She went on, “I made an announcement telling the passengers, ‘Do not board our train, please do not board our train. Our train is now out of service due to a smoke condition. Please take the train at the D train across the platform.’ After that, I secured my cab, went towards my partner to see if he needed help with anything. I noticed the EMS and fire department coming downstairs, so I guided them to the second car to make sure that our passengers that were injured were taken care of.”
Haynes said she wasn’t scared.
“Natural instincts kicked in, and the reality was that our priority was our riders. We just want to make sure that they got out of the area as quickly and safely as possible without causing any more chaos. Because as long as we are calm, cool and collected, our passengers can be calm,” she explained. “I feel like a lot more lives were saved that day because we were able to actually physically get them out of there.”
James was arrested on a federal charge of committing a terrorist act on a mass transportation vehicle. James made his first court appearance Thursday and didn’t enter a plea. He was ordered held without bail.
James’ defense attorney Mia Eisner-Grynberg called the shooting a tragedy but pointed out that initial information can often be wrong. She also lauded James for turning himself in.
In a court filing, federal prosecutors called the shooting calculated and “entirely premeditated.” They noted James wore a hard hat and construction worker-style jacket as a disguise and then shed them after the gunfire to avoid recognition.
Prosecutors suggested James had the means to carry out more attacks, noting that he had ammunition and other gun-related items in a Philadelphia storage unit.
“The defendant, terrifyingly, opened fire on passengers on a crowded subway train, interrupting their morning commute in a way this city hasn’t seen in more than 20 years,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Winik said in court Thursday. “The defendant’s attack was premeditated; it was carefully planned; and it caused terror among the victims and our entire city.”
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