13 April 2022

New York police hunt gunman after subway shooting

13 April 2022

A man who posted social media videos describing the US as a racist place awash in violence and recounting his struggle with mental illness remains at large a day after an attack on a subway train in New York left 10 people wounded by gunfire.

Mayor Eric Adams said that investigators now consider Frank R James a suspect in the shooting.

Police had initially said the 62-year-old was being sought for questioning because he had rented a van possibly connected to the attack, but were not sure whether he was responsible for the shooting.

Mr Adams did not offer details on why officials were now seeking James as a suspect beyond citing “new information that became available to the team”.

“We are going to continue to close the loop around him and bring him in, and continue the investigation into this horrific act against innocent New Yorkers,” the Democrat said.

The gunman set off smoke grenades in a crowded subway carriage and then fired at least 33 shots with a 9mm handgun, police said.

Five gunshot victims were in a critical condition but all 10 wounded in the shooting were expected to survive. At least a dozen others who escaped gunshot wounds were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.

The gunman escaped in the chaos but left behind numerous clues including the gun, ammunition magazines, a hatchet, smoke grenades, gasoline and the key to a U-Haul van.

Pedestrians pass the 36th Street subway station where a shooting attack occurred the previous day (John Minchillo/AP) (AP)

That key led investigators to James, a New York City-area native who had more recent addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin.

Federal investigators determined the gun used in the shooting was purchased by James at a pawn shop — a licensed firearms dealer — in the Columbus, Ohio, area in 2011, a law enforcement official said.

The van was found unoccupied near a station where investigators determined the gunman had entered the subway system.

No explosives or firearms were found in the van. Police did find other items, including pillows, suggesting he may have been sleeping or planned to sleep in the van.

Investigators believe James drove up from Philadelphia on Monday and have reviewed surveillance video showing a man matching his physical description coming out of the van early on Tuesday morning, the official said.

Other video shows James entering a subway station in Brooklyn with a large bag.

Five people were in critical condition but expected to survive. At least 29 in all were treated at hospitals for gunshot wounds, smoke inhalation and other conditions, according to hospitals (John Minchillo/AP) (AP)

In addition to analysing financial and phone records connected to James, investigators have also been reviewing hours of rambling, profanity-filled videos James posted on YouTube and other social media platforms — replete with violent language and bigoted comments, some against other black people — as they try to discern a motive.

In one video, posted a day before the attack, James criticises crime against black people and says drastic action is needed.

“You got kids going in here now taking machine guns and mowing down innocent people,” James says. “It’s not going to get better until we make it better,” he said, adding that he thought things would only change if certain people were “stomped, kicked and tortured” out of their “comfort zone”.

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