New York City community shaken by Sunset Park, Brooklyn subway shooting


Credit: @nytimes on Instagram

Lyndsey Brown, News Editor

On April 12, a man set off smoke bombs and then open fire, injuring at least 23 people on a subway car in Brooklyn near Sunset Park. The suspect was wearing a construction vest and helmet and immediately fled the scene after the shooting. Ten people were shot, and others suffered from smoke inhalation, along with other related injuries. Many of the victims were children ranging from ages 12 to 18. A handful of victims were hospitalized, but none of the injuries were life-threatening, and they are all currently in stable condition.

Around 8:30 a.m., the suspect, later identified as Frank R. James, fired 33 shots at the subway station before his handgun jammed after putting on a gas mask and setting off two smoke bombs. He fled from the N train onto the R train, along with some of the victims traveling to 25th street.

According to passengers, as the train approached the 36th Street stop, black smoke filled the train car, and Mr. James opened fire on the people within the car. James took one of the smoke canisters out of his bag and said, “Oops, my bad,” according to witness statements. He then removed the handgun from his bag and began firing. The train car stopped multiple times before arriving at the 36th Street station as the incident took place, with the doors remaining locked, trapping victims in the car until it arrived. The train pulled into the station and the approximate 35 people within the car, along with the shooter, exited the car towards other trains and the only exit on the platform.  

The injured passengers were taken to at least four city hospitals: NYU Langone, Maimonides Medical Center, NYP-Brooklyn Methodist and Kings County Hospital. There were no fatalities during the incident.

Frank R. James was named a person of interest on Tuesday, April 12 and was later identified as a suspect that Wednesday by Mayor Eric Adams. James evaded police for over a day before being arrested in the East Village in Manhattan Wednesday afternoon. A 31-hour manhunt took place following the shooting, shutting down areas of South Brooklyn and Sun Set Park Brooklyn.

Despite malfunctioning security cameras on the station’s platform, police found a credit card belonging to Frank R. James, as well as a key to the U-Haul van he had rented, a 9-millimeter handgun, a hatchet, three ammunition magazines, fireworks and a liquid that was potentially gasoline at the station. These items led police to name James as a person of interest and the main suspect of the shooting. James had left these items and shed his construction gear as he fled the scene.

A 17-year-old boy had spotted James in Chinatown more than 24 hours after the shooting, posting his photo on Twitter at 10:29 a.m. with the caption “Possible Frank James sighting?” adding the hashtags #FrankJames and #lowereastside in a later tweet. The teen also called Crime Stoppers, an anonymous tip line for the NYPD that offers a reward of up to $3,500 for information that can lead to the arrest and indictment of a violent felon. The police responded to this call; however, Mr. James had already moved on from this spot when they arrived. 

Police then received word from a nearby McDonald’s on Sixth Street and First Avenue, leading them to James. They responded to the call from McDonald’s, but again, James had already left. They then proceeded to drive through the neighborhood and later found him on the corner of St. Marks and 1st Avenue.  

James’s U-Haul van had been rented a day prior to the incident in Philadelphia and was found approximately five blocks away from the Kings Highway station in Brooklyn, which is where James boarded the N train that morning, traveling ten stops before firing at the 36th Street Station.

The fireworks potentially were bought in Racine, WI, as a fireworks seller states that a man named Frank James had bought similar ones to those used last June. Frank R. James has ties to Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City, according to police.

Mr. James has an extensive criminal record, having been arrested nine times in New York, and charged twice in New Jersey. His prior offenses began in 1992 and stretch to 1998. His charges include criminal sex acts, making terroristic threats and harassment.

James was charged with having committed a terrorist act on a mass transit system in a federal complaint, according to the U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District, Breon S. Peace. His arraignment will take place in Federal District Court in Brooklyn and he made his first appearance in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, April 14. Mr. James will face a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted and is currently being held without bail.