James, 62, is the man who authorities say donned a gas mask, threw a smoke bomb and opened fire on a crowded Brooklyn subway on Tuesday morning.
He was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said James was spotted by passers-by in the St. Marks Place and First Avenue area in the East Village.
Among the calls Crime Stoppers received was a person claiming to be the suspect himself.
According to law enforcement sources, James called the NYPD and told them he was the man the police were looking for and wanted to turn himself in.
“I think you’re looking for me,” the caller reportedly said. “I see my picture all over the papers and I’ll be at 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 he would either be at McDonald’s charging his phone or outside when the police arrived.
By the time police responded, he had left the McDonald’s at East 6th Street and First Avenue.
When officers couldn’t find him at the restaurant, they scoured the neighborhood for him. According to law enforcement sources, Good Samaritans told police they believed the suspect was at the end of the street.
James was then spotted standing in front of 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 it,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “We got it.”
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James will be charged under a federal law that prohibits terrorist attacks and other violent attacks on the public transit system. The federal government will also charge him for crossing state lines.
We hope this arrest brings some comfort to the victims and the people of New York City,” Sewell said. “We have used all the resources at our disposal to gather and process the important evidence that directly links Mr. James to the shooting. We were able to shrink his world quickly. He had nowhere left to run.”
Watch the full special report on James’ arrest here:
Officials say the investigation is still ongoing and 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 faces life in prison if convicted of the attack, which left at least 29 people injured by gunshot or otherwise, rocking a city already unnerved by a surge in crime.
Officials said any potential motive remains unclear, but witnesses said the lone gunman was seen muttering while wearing a reflective vest before putting on the gas mask and removing a cartridge from his bag which was then filled the car with smoke. He then started shooting.
Ten people were hit by bullets, while others were either scratched or injured in the ensuing chaos.
None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, and authorities said a magazine stuck in the gun could have saved lives.
After the shooting, NYPD Detective Chief James Essig said James boarded an R train that stopped at the station and stopped before exiting at the 25th Street station. . After that, James was seen again at a Park Slope tube station just under an hour later before disappearing.
Authorities identified James as a person of interest Tuesday night, but on Wednesday, after the investigation linked James to the crime in multiple ways, Mayor Eric Adams said he was considered the suspect and a wanted fugitive.
This decision was made overnight after more than 18 hours of investigation including video, cellphone 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 on and very methodically hurt…innocent New Yorkers, that’s terror.”
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While the station’s cameras were inoperable, law enforcement officials were able to obtain an image of the suspect from a bystander’s cellphone video. The NYPD then located a U-Haul van on Kings Highway in Gravesend that they believe James drove to New York from Philadelphia on Monday.
They said a pillow inside indicated he may have slept there, and a nearby subway station is where they believe he entered the system.
The keys to that van were found in the gunman’s possessions left at the subway station, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
A 9mm Glock semi-automatic handgun, three extended magazines, a hatchet, gasoline, four smoke grenades (two detonated and two undetonated) and a bag of consumer-grade fireworks, as well as ‘a credit card according to the authorities, were also recovered at the scene. used to rent the U-Haul. The weapon 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 have elevated James from person of interest to suspect, sources said.
Investigators also became more comfortable calling James a suspect after re-examining witnesses who initially gave a description of the shooter’s height that did not match James’ 6ft 2in frame.
Phantom Fireworks confirmed in a statement that James purchased products in Wisconsin that were allegedly left in the 36th Street subway station.
Authorities found no significant 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, from 1992 to 1998, with nine prior arrests.
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James’ social media posts containing profanity appear to be highly critical of the mayor for his homelessness policy, including videos filled with racist and sexist slurs and rambling rants about the crackdown on Adams versus people living in the subway.
Mayor Adams appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday and said officials are considering using state-of-the-art metal detectors on the city’s subway.
“These aren’t the traditional metal detectors you see at airports,” Adams said. “Technology has advanced so much. When you think about it, we haven’t advanced with technology. Cities…when it comes to better protecting citizens, I’m open to all technologies.”
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