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NYC authorities identify suspect in Brooklyn subway shooting

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The man who New York City police called a person of interest in yesterday's subway shootings in Brooklyn is now a suspect. Here's Mayor Eric Adams speaking this morning on member station WNYC.

ERIC ADAMS: I was briefed by the team, and we know his - one of his motives was to create terror in our system.

FADEL: The attack wounded 23 people. Investigators say they also found a gun, fireworks and fuses in the subway station. Joining us now is Gwynne Hogan of WNYC. Hi, Gwynne.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.

FADEL: So, Gwynne, what do we know about the suspect?

HOGAN: So his name is Frank R. James. He's a 62-year-old man with addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia, though he also appears to have ties to New York. Police identified James as a suspect after they found a key at the subway station and then tracked that back to a U-Haul van James had rented. Now, yesterday, police were just saying they wanted to locate James to interview him, but now Mayor Eric Adams and police are confirming he is, in fact, the prime suspect in this attack. Adams says that new information became available, but he didn't give specifics on that.

FADEL: So part of the investigation is expected to center on dozens of videos the suspect posted on YouTube. What do we know about those videos?

HOGAN: That's right. Police had mentioned this yesterday, that they were reviewing social media posts from James. He has a YouTube channel with thousands of followers. On it, he mentions Mayor Eric Adams. He talks about the mayor's efforts to tamp down on crime. But in one video, he was saying that there was no way Adams could prevent a random attack on the subway. He also talks about being institutionalized. He talks about wanting to kill everything in sight in one video. And this is hours of recordings. He also railed about the war in Ukraine, the Russian president, the threat of nuclear war, racism and PTSD.

FADEL: Now, police also talked about how the shooting unfolded. What were they able to put together from video and witness statements?

HOGAN: Well, this all took place during rush hour, as the train was pulling into a station in Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Now, the suspect was wearing a construction vest and had a construction helmet on when he put on a gas mask and opened up two smoke grenades. Then, he - police say that he pulled out a gun and started shooting - 33 shots in all. There's footage that has appeared on social media from people who were there that showed smoke pouring out of the train as soon as the doors opened and people laying on the platform floor and in the subway floor who had been injured. One of my co-workers, Juliana Fonda, was actually on that train on her way to work...

FADEL: Oh, wow.

HOGAN: ...At the time of the attack. Police have said, later, they recovered items at the station that included empty - two empty gas canisters, a hatchet, gasoline and a 9 mm semiautomatic Glock.

FADEL: And so far, they say, they don't have a motive.

That's Gwynne Hogan with member station WNYC. Gwynne, thank you for your reporting.

HOGAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.