New York shooting: Details behind the 30-hour search for a suspect

Keys, neon jacket, gun.

Items left behind at a bloody crime scene at the Brooklyn subway station Tuesday morning have provided investigators with some of the first clues as they work to find who opened fire on the line. Dozens of unsuspecting New Yorkers are going to school and work.

Within hours, those discoveries led to an interest. And Wednesday, as more evidence became available, authorities designated the man as a suspect, urging the public to contact police if they see him.

Two law enforcement sources said the suspected shooter called himself and was arrested about an hour later.

Frank James, 62, has been charged in federal court with violating a law banning terrorism and other violent attacks on public transportation, a US attorney has said. James allegedly opened fire at least 33 times, hitting 10 people, authorities said. Officials said the motive was still unclear. CNN has reached out to James’ federal defender for comment.

Here’s how authorities gathered evidence to identify a suspected shooter – and what led to his arrest.

KEYS, CARDS, Jackets, and Guns

A credit card investigator found at the scene presented a key piece of the puzzle they were tasked with solving.

The card was used to rent a U-Haul truck that authorities believe was involved in the shooting, two law enforcement sources said. Internal NYPD emails seen by CNN on Tuesday do not say how authorities believe the truck is connected. In the emails, top commanders shared pictures of a white U-Haul cargo truck and asked officers to watch out for a similar vehicle with Arizona license plates.

Law enforcement officials told CNN.

It’s about three blocks from Kings Highway station, where footage shows the suspect entering the subway Tuesday morning, before the shooting happened, NYPD Detective Superintendent James Essig said.

“The key to that truck was found at the crime scene,” Essig said at a news conference Wednesday. U-Haul records show James rented the truck Monday afternoon, according to the criminal complaint. Surveillance footage shows a person wearing a “yellow hard hat, orange jacket … with a backpack in his right hand and a rolling bag in his left hand,” leaving a pedestrian vehicle early Tuesday morning on 7th Street. West and Kings Expressway in Brooklyn, according to the complaint.

No weapons or explosives were found in the truck, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. Sources said the car had food left in it and it appeared James had slept in it. A license plate reader spotted the truck driving across the Verrazzano Bridge into Brooklyn, from Staten Island, around 4 a.m. Tuesday, law enforcement officials said.

Mr. Essig said a black trolley that the suspect was seen in the video was also recovered at the crime scene. He added with an orange jacket. Essig said a helmet the suspect was wearing was found in a trash can.

The shooting happened around 8:24 a.m., officials said.

At the scene, authorities also found a 9mm Glock pistol, three extension magazines, two exploding and two unexploded smoke grenades and a hatch cover, Essig said Tuesday. Two officials said they believe the gun was caught in the shooting.

The gun had scratches and prosecutors said they believe it was an attempt to “falsify the serial number,” according to court documents. It was purchased by James of Ohio in 2011, Essig said.

By Tuesday night, authorities had put together a rough sketch of what happened on the subway train earlier that day: After boarding the N train – which begins at Kings Highway station – the suspect opened two boxes of “smoke all over the subway” car,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Tuesday night.

He then allegedly shot multiple people as the train pulled into the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park, Sewell said. Images taken by eyewitnesses show the chaos and panic of those moments: One video shows smoke billowing from the wagon where the shooting took place as screams were heard, while another On the other hand, people were seen rushing out of the subway.

After allegedly opening fire on the train, the suspect boarded the R train and headed for a stop at 25th Street, Essig said at a press conference Wednesday.

Less than an hour later, around 9:15 a.m., he was spotted boarding the subway at 7th Avenue and 9 Street stations in nearby Park Slope, Essig added.


When the NYPD posted a notice on Twitter Wednesday morning asking for information about James’ whereabouts, they attached a screenshot from one of the YouTube videos the suspect was linked to.

The videos discuss violence, mass shootings, and mental health, often in a rambling fashion, and provide details about the journey James embarked on before the attack.

Many of the videos James uploads include references to violence, including a group of people he believes have malice against him, in addition to the broad racial and social groups he appears to hate.

In a video posted in February, he criticized New York Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s plan to address safety and homelessness in the subway system, in part through physical presence. extension of mental health workers, saying the effort is “certainly going to fail.” He describes his own negative experience with city health workers during a “mental health crisis of the ’90s and ’80s.”

In a video uploaded last month, James talks about suffering from post-traumatic stress and said he left Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 20 and embarked on a trip east, saying he was heading to “danger area”. Preliminary information shows James has mentioned homelessness, New York City and its mayor in online posts, Sewell said Tuesday.

The videos show him arriving in Philadelphia around March 25 after several stops.

Federal prosecutors believe James visited a warehouse in Philadelphia that was stocked with ammunition and more weapons the night before the attack, according to court documents. A facility-related receipt was found in a jacket recovered at the scene of the shooting.

Authorities executed a court-mandated order to search the facility on Tuesday, and found ammunition and “a pistol barrel that allows for the attachment of a silencer or silencer,” among other things, according to the report. petition.

Authorities also conducted a search warrant at a Philadelphia apartment they believe James had rented for just over two weeks from about March 28, and found “an empty magazine for a Glock pistol, a rifle, a high-capacity rifle magazine and a blue smoke canister,” the complaint said.


James was arrested about 30 hours after the shooting. Two law enforcement sources told CNN.

Sources said he was in a McDonald’s on the lower East side of Manhattan. He told the operator he would be in the restaurant to charge his phone, a senior law enforcement source said. After a while, the call was dropped.

But another call was made to 911 by someone who believed they had spotted James, one of the two sources told CNN.

Patrol agents arrived at the McDonald’s and were able to find James downstairs shortly after a bystander flagged him, a senior law enforcement source said.

Investigators are currently reviewing camera footage to try to build a timeline of the shooter’s location from when he was last spotted on Park Slope on Tuesday and when he was arrested on Tuesday. Tu, a senior law enforcement source told CNN.

Officials say the investigation is ongoing.

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