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NYC Man Accused of Mass Subway Shooting Hit With 10 Federal Terrorism Counts, Along with Gun Charge

Frank Robert James.  (Image via the NYPD.)

Frank Robert James.  (Image via the NYPD.)

The 63-year-old man accused of perpetrating a mass shooting inside of a New York City subway car in April that left dozens of commuters injured is facing a new batch of federal terrorism charges. Prosecutors on Friday announced a superseding indictment charging suspected shooter Frank Robert James with 10 counts of terrorist attack and other violence against a mass transportation system carrying passengers and employees, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime show.

The 10 terrorism charges reflect the number of victims who sustained gunshot wounds during the shooting. The grand jury also charged James with one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Each of the 11 charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutors in May charged James with only a single terrorism charge, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Authorities  previously said that James was the man who opened fire on an N-train car in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn during rush hour at approximately 8:26 a.m. on April 12.

James allegedly set off two smoke grenades on the second car of the Manhattan-bound subway train while it was heading from the 59th Street station to the 36th Street station, all within the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, Law&Crime previously reported. He then allegedly fired a 9mm semi-automatic handgun 33 times, hitting 10 people. In addition to the gunshot victims, 13 people were injured from smoke inhalation, falling down, or panic, Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters at the time. No one died.

Police said James fled immediately after the mass shooting but was easily traceable based on evidence left at the scene.

“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 released back in April. “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.”

Federal authorities wrote 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.”

James is believed to have rented the U-Haul in Philadelphia.  The authorities have said that they believe James drove the vehicle across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at approximately 4:11 a.m. and left it a few blocks away from the subway stop where the gunfire unfolded.

Police elsewhere said they found three extended magazines, two detonated smoke grenades, two non-detonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, and consumer-grade fireworks.  They further found a debit card issued to James.

James also reportedly posted a series of rambling monologues on social media accounts — including YouTube and Facebook — on subjects such as race, crime, and government.  He at times railed against defendants who pleaded for leniency from the courts.  At other times he spoke directly to New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams.

“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.

James’ trial is currently scheduled to begin on Feb. 27, 2023.

[image via NYPD]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.