The man detained on a terror charge after shooting 10 people on a New York subway was denied bail and remanded in custody on Thursday after his first court appearance.
Frank James, 62, did not enter a plea on charges of violating a law that prohibits terrorist and violent attacks against mass transportation.
He was detained without incident by patrol officers in lower Manhattan on Wednesday after a 30-hour manhunt. James, who was raised in the Bronx, is accused of firing 33 shots with a 9mm Glock and detonating a smoke bomb in a packed subway carriage during the Tuesday morning rush hour.
“The defendant terrifyingly opened fire on passengers on a crowded subway train, interrupting their morning commute in a way the city hasn’t seen in more than 20 years,” assistant US attorney Sara K Winik said. “The defendant’s attack was premeditated, was carefully planned, and it caused terror among the victims and our entire city.”
Almost 30 people were injured, including at least four schoolchildren. The gunman fled the chaotic scene by boarding another train after dumping the gas mask and neon jacket he had been wearing.
James, who appeared in court in a khaki prison uniform and blue surgical mask, spoke only to acknowledge he had seen the complaint. He faces life in prison if convicted.
His defence lawyer consented to James being held, at least for now, but could apply for bail at a later stage.
Following a request from the defence, Judge Roanne Mann agreed to ask the federal Bureau of Prisons to provide James with “psychiatric attention”, as well as magnesium tablets for leg cramps, at the federal lockup in Brooklyn where he is being held.
James was arrested after several members of the public spotted him in a downtown McDonalds and called Crime Stoppers. He was detained by two patrol officers without back-up on a street corner nearby. Media reports that James also called police to tell them his own whereabouts have not been confirmed.
The complaint details a trove of evidence that authorities say link James to the mass shooting.
Authorities at the scene found a bag containing a Glock handgun, a plastic container of gasoline, a torch, a U-Haul key and multiple bank cards, as well as another bag containing fireworks.
James bought the handgun from a licensed gun dealer in Ohio in 2011. The bank cards had James’s name on them and the U-Haul key was connected to a van that James had rented in Philadelphia a day earlier, according to the complaint. Authorities also tracked the purchase of a gas mask to James through an eBay account.
In addition, a neon orange construction jacket, discarded on the Sunset Park subway platform where the gunman alighted, had a receipt for a storage unit in Philadelphia registered to James, according to the complaint.
Authorities found ammunition and other gun paraphernalia in James’s storage unit, which prosecutors said showed he planned to attack again.
“The defendant committed a premeditated mass shooting on the New York City subway system and then fled the scene, with a stockpile of ammunition and other dangerous items stowed in his storage unit. The defendant presents a severe and ongoing danger to the community, as well as a serious risk of flight, that no set of release conditions can mitigate,” Breon Peace, US attorney for the eastern district of New York, wrote to the judge before the hearing.
Authorities have found no evidence linking him to terror organizations.
James was born and raised in New York City and moved to Milwaukee, though he had recently left Wisconsin and had briefly lived in Philadelphia. His previous criminal history includes nine arrests in New York between 1992 and 1998, mostly for misdemeanours, as well as three in New Jersey (1992, 1993 and 2007) for crimes including disorderly conduct and trespass.
Investigators are now examining hours of rambling video footage that James appears to have posted on social media, including one the day before the attack, in which he ranted about racism, society’s treatment of Black people, homelessness and violence.
In a video posted last month, James singled out the city’s relatively new mayor, Eric Adams, by name, criticizing his recently announced public safety policies targeting homeless people in the subway. He also talked about his own history of PTSD and the dire state of mental health services.
Before Tuesday’s attack, Adams, who is recovering from Covid, had deployed thousands of extra police to patrol the transit system and forcibly remove homeless people sheltering in stations after a spate of violent attacks on the subway. Since the attack, Adams has said that the city is exploring cutting-edge gun detection technologies for the subway, which could be piloted soon.