According to CNN, Frank James, 62, was charged in federal court with violating a law that prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks against a mass transportation system, said Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. If convicted, he could spend life in prison, Peace said.
The shooting, which came as the train neared the 36th Street station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, left at least 29 people with injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to smoke inhalation. Five remained hospitalized Wednesday evening.
The timing of his appearance in court will be confirmed Thursday morning, according to US Attorney’s Office spokesperson John Marzulli. CNN has reached out to James’ federal defender for comment.
The appearance is set to come two days after authorities say James boarded an N subway train, set off two smoke grenades and then opened fire at commuters during Tuesday morning rush hour in one of the most violent attacks in the history of New York’s subway system.
James was initially named a “person of interest” by the New York City Police Department but was declared a suspect after investigators determined he purchased the gun left at the scene of the shooting. Police released photos of him and launched a manhunt, which ended early Wednesday afternoon when police took him into custody without incident on Manhattan’s East Village.
“We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Wednesday.
The 62-year-old had called police tips hotline Crime Stoppers on Wednesday to tell authorities he was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan’s East Village, two law enforcement sources told CNN. The call dropped moments later and was followed by a 911 call from another person who said they had spotted James, one of the two sources told CNN.
Police responded to the McDonald’s and did not find James, sources told CNN, but shortly after, officers came across a bystander who flagged James to them, a senior law enforcement source said.
A witness told CNN on Wednesday morning that he recognized James from the police photos.
“When I saw his face, I recognized him like right away, but at the same time I feel kind of panic because he was carrying a backpack on his right-hand side, it was like heavy,” Francisco Puebla told John Berman on CNN’s “New Day.”
“When he passed by right next to us, he was just talking bad words, talking himself, and just continued walking right on the street.”
Officials have said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Hourari Benkada, 27, who was shot in the back of the knee, said he’d gotten into the last car of the N train and sat next to a man with a duffel bag who appeared to be wearing an MTA public transit vest. The man let off a “smoke bomb,” he said, and passengers tried to flee as the man then began firing.
The engulfing smoke created panic and chaos as passengers fled to the far end of the train, waiting for two long minutes until the train arrived at the next station.
When it did finally make it to the 36th Street station, passengers bolted from the train car and smoke spilled out of the open doors, videos of the scene show. Others with bloody wounds stumbled to the platform and cried out for medical care.