James, 62, is the man authorities say donned a gas mask, released a smoke bomb and opened fire on a crowded Brooklyn subway Tuesday morning.
He was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said James was spotted by bystanders in the St. Louis area. Marks Place and First Avenue in the East Village.
Among the calls that came into Crime Stoppers was a person purporting to be the suspect himself.
According to police sources, James called the NYPD, and told them that he’s the man police are looking for and that he wants to turn himself in.
“I think you’re looking for me,” the caller reportedly said. “I’m seeing my picture all over the news and I’ll be around this McDonalds.”
They say he gave a name and a description of what he was wearing. He reportedly told police his phone was dying and that he would either be in McDonald’s charging his phone or in front when police arrive.
By the time police responded, he had left the McDonald’s at East 6th Street and First Avenue.
When officers did not find him at the restaurant, they drove around the neighborhood looking for him. According to police sources, good Samaritans told police they thought the suspect was down the block.
James was then spotted standing at a kiosk charging his phone. He was arrested without incident at St. Mark’s Place and First Avenue, and he was transported to the 9th Precinct.
“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “We got him.”
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James will be charged under a federal statute that prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks in mass transit system. The federal government will also charge him with crossing state lines.
We hope this arrest brings some solace to the victims and the people of the city of New York, “Sewell said.” We used every resource at our disposal to gather and process significantly evident that directly links Mr. James to the shooting. We were able to shrink his world quickly. There was nowhere left for him to run. “
Watch full special report on James’ arrest here:
Officials say the investigation remains ongoing, and they urge anyone with additional information to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
James will face life in prison if convicted in the attack, which left at least 29 people shot or otherwise injured, shaking a city already unnerved by a sharp rise in crime.
Officials said any potential motive remains unclear, but witnesses said the lone gunman was seen mumbling to himself while wearing a reflective vest before putting on the gas mask and removing a canister from his bag that then filled the car with smoke. He then began shooting.
Ten people were struck by bullets, while others were either grazed or hurt in the chaos that followed.
None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, and authorities said a magazine that jammed into the gun may have saved lives.
After the shooting, NYPD Chief of Detective James Essig said James boarded an R train that pulled into the station and went one stop before exiting at the 25th Street station. After that, James was seen again at a Park Slope subway stop just under an hour later before fading from view.
Authorities identified James as a person of interest Tuesday night, but by Wednesday, after the investigation linked James to the crime in numerous ways, Mayor Eric Adams said he was considered the suspect and a wanted fugitive.
That determination was made overnight after more than 18 hours of investigation that included video, cell phone data, and witness interviews.
“There was a clear desire to create terror,” Adams said. “If you bring a smoke bomb or would you bring a semi-automatic weapon with a gas mask and in a very methodical way injured … innocent New Yorkers, that is terror.”
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While the cameras in the station were inoperable, law enforcement officials were able to get an image of the suspect from a bystander’s cell phone video. The NYPD then located a U-Haul van on Kings Highway in Gravesend that they believe James drove to New York City from Philadelphia on Monday.
They said a pillow inside indicated he may have been sleeping there, and a nearby subway station is where they believe he entered the system.
The keys to that van were found in the shooter’s possessions left behind at the subway station, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
Also recovered at the scene was a 9 mm Glock semi-automatic handgun, three extended magazines, a hatchet, gasoline, four smoke grenades (two detonated and two undetonated) and bag of consumer grade fireworks, as well as a credit card authorities say was used to rent the U-Haul. The gun was purchased from a licensed pawn shop in Ohio in 2011, the ATF determined.
The gun, and the purchase of a gas mask on eBay, are among the pieces of evidence that elevated James from person of interest to suspect, sources said.
Investigators also grew more comfortable calling James a suspect after they re-interviewed witnesses who initially gave a height description of the gunman that did not match James’ 6-foot-2 frame.
Phantom Fireworks confirmed in a statement that James purchased products in Wisconsin believed to have been left behind in the 36th Street subway station.
Authorities have discovered no meaningful felony arrests in James’ criminal history, only a number of misdemeanor charges. But James was known to the NYPD with a rap sheet spanning six years, 1992 to 1998, with nine prior arrests.
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Profanity-laced social media posts from James seem to be highly critical of the mayor for his homeless policy, including videos filled with racist and sexist insults and rambling rants about Adams’ crackdown on people living in the subway.
Mayor Adams appeared on Good Morning America Wednesday and said officials are considering the use of state-of-the-art metal detectors in the city’s subway system moving forward.
“It’s not the traditional metal detectors that you see at airports,” Adams said. “Technology has advanced so much. When you think about it, we have not advanced with technology. The cities … when it comes down to protecting the citizens better, I’m open to all technology.”
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