Suspected subway gunman Frank James cried like a baby at an East Village pizzeria the morning after his alleged rampage and amid cops’ frantic manhunt for him, according to a restaurant employee.
Stromboli Pizza employee Gentrid Hasangjekaj, 21, told the Post that he was working at the restaurant at 83 St. Marks Place on the corner of First Avenue in Manhattan around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday when a man he now recognizes how James walked in – distraught, tearfully-eyed and asking for help.
James allegedly dropped smoke grenades and then a barrage of gunfire on a train in Brooklyn just 18 hours earlier, injuring 29 people, including 10 who were shot.
“He was crying like a little baby,” Hasangjekaj said.
The worker said he was unaware at the time that the distraught man was the same figure sought in the terrifying underground attack, but later saw a photo confirming it was James .
“He said, ‘Oh, I lost my family’, this and that, and I felt bad. I thought, ‘Anyway, let me help you.’ I didn’t know who he was. I gave him water. I gave him towels,” Hasangjekaj said of the suspect.
“I asked him three times, ‘Where are you from? How long have you been lost? He said nothing. It was as if he didn’t hear what I was asking him.
James did not eat or order food, the worker said. The suspect left after about 30 minutes, Hasangjekaj said.
The worker said that before James entered the pizzeria, the suspect told four men eating slices outside that he was blind and asked if he could borrow one of their phones .
It’s unclear whether either of the men gave James his phone, but the suspect quickly drove into Stromboli and asked Hasangjekaj for his phone, the worker said.
Hasangjekaj said he gave his phone to James, who then used it to call a number in Virginia Beach, Va., listed as belonging to a man and a woman. James claimed the woman was his wife, Hasangjekaj said. The number is now disconnected.
Police told the Post on Saturday that they are aware of the reported encounter with a pizza place and will follow up on it.
“We are aware of the information and the team will investigate,” said a police source.
Hasangjekaj said James also tried to reach the woman he called through Facebook Messenger. The woman did not respond to any of James’ efforts to reach her in the store, the worker said.
James, 62, is charged with the shock shooting aboard the Manhattan-bound N train around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Cops said he walked into a Park Slope F train station in Brooklyn about 45 minutes later, sparking a frantic citywide manhunt amid fears he could attack again.
The loner was apparently hiding in plain sight.
James was a person of interest but had not yet been named a suspect when he tearfully walked into Stromboli Pizza.
Hasangjekaj said James is about 6ft tall, much taller than the 5ft 5in attributed to the shooting suspect in initial reports.
After leaving the pizzeria, the deranged man, who has a habit of spitting racist hate, was not seen again until 10.30am on Wednesday, when a member of the public spotted him near Canal and Ludlow streets, according to the cops. A photo captured him sitting near an outdoor dining shed at this time, staring off into space.
James then drove north toward the pizza place but stopped at a McDonald’s on First Avenue and East Sixth Street, police said.
The suspect called Crime Stoppers to surrender sometime before 1:30 p.m., but left before police arrived.
Rob Rossi told the Post on Saturday that he was sitting inside the International Bar on First Avenue at East Sixth Street around 1 p.m. Wednesday when James opened the door and took a few steps into the pub.
“He said, ‘Do you have a phone charger? “said Rossi, 49. “Now it makes sense that he was looking to surrender. One of the guys was outside and said, ‘Listen, there’s no phone charger here’ and the guy left. It was our meeting with him.
Rossi also said James was around 6 feet tall, not the 5-5 in early reports.
Surveillance footage from the International shows a man who looks like James walking outside his front door at 12.39pm on Wednesday
Police eventually found the suspect at 1:42 p.m. Wednesday, a few steps from the pizzeria, and took him into custody.
A co-worker at Stromboli Pizza texted Hasangjekaj, saying the despondent man in the pizzeria was the same person who police say shot on the subway in Brooklyn.
Hasangjekaj, when shown a photo of James by The Post, confirmed it was the same guy.
“I’m talking to the guy who shot 10 people. I am surprised. It’s, like, ‘Wow. It’s crazy,” Hasangjekaj said.
New York Post