Frank James posted dozens of videos ranting about race, violence, and his struggle with mental illness. One stands out because of his relative calm: a muted image of a packed New York City subway car in which he raises his finger to signal to passengers, one by one.
Even when police arrested James on Wednesday in the Brooklyn subway shooting that wounded 10 people, they were still searching for a motive amid a flood of details about the 62-year-old black man’s life.
An erratic work history. Arrests for a series of mostly low-level crimes. A storage locker with more ammo. And hours of incoherent, intolerant and profanity-filled videos on his YouTube channel. YouTube that point to a deep and latent anger.
“This nation was born in violence, is kept alive by violence or the threat of it, and is going to die a violent death,” James says in a video in which he takes on the nickname “Prophet of the perdition”.
After a 30-hour manhunt, James was arrested without incident after an informant, who police thought was James himself, said he could be found near a McDonald’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Mayor Eric Adams triumphantly proclaimed “We got it!” Police said their top priority was getting the suspect, now charged with a federal terrorism offense, off the streets as they investigate their biggest unanswered question: Why?
A great treasure trove of evidence, they said, is his videos of YouTube. She seems to have opinions on just about everything: racism in America, the new mayor of New York City, the state of mental health services, 9/11, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and black women.
A federal criminal complaint cited one in which James ranted about too many homeless people on the subway and blamed the mayor of New York City.
“What are you doing, brother?” he told her in the video posted on March 27. “Every car I went to was full of homeless people. It was so bad I couldn’t even stand it.”
James then criticized the treatment of black people in an April 6 video cited in the complaint, saying, “So the message to me is: I should have gotten a gun and started shooting.”
In a video posted a day before the attack, James criticizes crime against black people, saying things would only change if certain people were “stomped on, kicked and tortured” outside of their “comfort zone.”
Surveillance cameras saw James entering the underground system’s turnstiles Tuesday morning, dressed as a maintenance or construction worker in a yellow hard hat and orange work jacket with reflective tape.
Police say other passengers heard him say just “oops” when he detonated a smoke grenade in a crowded subway car pulling into a station. He then activated a second smoke grenade and began firing, police said. In the smoke and chaos that followed, police say James slipped away on a train that stopped at the platform and exited after the first stop.
Left at the scene were the gun, extended magazines, an axe, detonated and unexploded smoke grenades, a black trash can, a rolling cart, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul truck, police said.
That clue led investigators to James, and clues to a life of setbacks and anger as he bounced between factory and maintenance jobs, been laid off at least twice, moved between Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.
Investigators said James had 12 prior arrests in New York and New Jersey between 1990 and 2007, including for possession of burglary tools, criminal sexual act, breaking and entering, theft and disorderly conduct.
[Con información de The Associated Press]
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