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Accused Brooklyn Subway Shooter Charged Under Federal Anti-Terrorism Statute After FBI Allegedly Traces Gun and Fireworks to His Name

 
Frank James

Photos of Frank James included in an FBI affidavit charging him with the Brooklyn subway shooting.

Accused New York City subway shooter Frank Robert James has been charged under a federal anti-terrorism statute in Brooklyn, where the FBI filed an affidavit claiming to have recovered a gun and fireworks purchased in his name from the crime scene.

“Yesterday was a dark day for all of us,” the Eastern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney Breon Peace wrote in a statement. “But the bright spots of the incredible heroism of our fellow New Yorkers helping each other in a time of crisis, the quick response by our first responders, and the hard work by all of our law enforcement partners that has been ongoing truly shines bright.”

Charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 1992(a)(7)—a statute designed to combat terrorist attacks and other violence on U.S. mass transit systems—James was easily traceable by what authorities say they recovered when responding to reports of gunfire and smoke-emitting devices on an N train at 8:26 a.m. on Tuesday.

“Searches of the scene of the attack revealed two bags, both of which were recovered from the scene,” FBI agent Jorge Alvarez wrote in a 10-page affidavit. “The first bag contained, among other items, a firearm, a plastic container containing gasoline, a torch, a U-Haul key, and multiple bank cards. The firearm was a Glock 17 pistol manufactured in Austria.”

The FBI says that records provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed that the firearm was “lawfully purchased in Ohio” by an individual named “Frank Robert James.”

Frank James's Glock

Frank James’s Glock, per FBI

“Marks on the serial number on the firearm appear to reflect that an attempt was made to deface the serial number,” the affidavit continues.

Authorities say that they also recovered a second bag, containing fireworks filled with black-powder spewing explosives.

“One of the bank cards located in the first bag with the firearm was a debit card issued by a United States financial institution (‘Bank-1’) in the name of ‘Frank James,'” the affidavit states.

The FBI traced the U-Haul from the scene to one rented by “Frank James” on Monday, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a white Chevrolet Express Model G2500 Cargo Van with Arizona license plates. New York City Police Department surveillance footage allegedly spotted that vehicle driving over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at approximately 4:11 a.m. on Tuesday.

Frank James's U-Haul

Frank James’s U-Haul spotted by NYPD surveillance footage, per FBI

“Law enforcement subsequently located the U-Haul Vehicle parked on the side of the road in the vicinity of 366 Kings Highway in Brooklyn, New York,” the affidavit states. “Notably, the location is approximately two blocks from a New York City Transit N-train subway stop, and law enforcement recovered a jacket with reflective tape, which matches the jacket worn by the individual in the surveillance video.”

The FBI says that surveillance footage captured a man whose appearance matches his driver’s license photo exiting the N-train subway at 25th Street, one stop away from the 36th Street station about 14 minutes after the attack took place.

“The government will prove, among other things, that James traveled across a state line in order to commit the offense and transported materials across a state line in aid of the commission of the offense,” Peace said.

In a video posted on YouTube before the attack, James allegedly addressed New York City’s mayor directly.

“What are you doing, brother? What’s happening with this homeless situation?” James was quoted asking in the video, which was reportedly removed from the platform. “Every car I went to wa[s] loaded with homeless people. It was so bad, I couldn’t even stand.”

Allegedly spouting off conspiracy theories, James added: “And so the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun, and just started shooting motherf—ers,” according to the FBI

If convicted, the 62-year-old James faces the possibility of life imprisonment.

Read the complaint and affidavit, below:

(Photos via FBI)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.