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January 04, 2023

Brooklyn subway shooter pleads guilty to federal terrorism charges

Frank James, who briefly lived in Philly and had rented the moving van left near the crime scene here, shot 10 passengers on a train in April

Frank James, the man who opened fire on a crowded Brooklyn subway car in April, has pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges.

James, 63, is a New York City native but he also had lived in Philadelphia and Milwaukee prior to the shooting. He had been staying in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia for at least a month before his arrest, investigators said, near where he also had rented a storage unit at a U-Haul facility and rented the U-Haul van he drove to Brooklyn from North Philly. The van, which was found parked near the scene of the attack, had the words "Allegheny West" printed on it.

On the morning of April 12, the gunman opened fire on the New York subway system's N train. Investigators said James had disguised himself as an MTA worker and set off a smoke bomb in the car before shooting at passengers. In total, 10 people were shot and 19 were injured.

After James' arrest, authorities searched his Philly apartment and storage unit and found a stockpile of weapons, including 9mm ammunition and a threaded 9mm pistol barrel, which allows for a silencer to be attached. Investigators also found a taser, high-capacity rifle magazine, a blue smoke canister and .233 caliber ammunition, which can be used in an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

"James' crimes of violence have been met with swift justice," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York said on Tuesday. "James' admission of guilt to all 11 counts of the superseding indictment acknowledges the terror and pain he caused. This guilty plea is an important step towards holding James fully accountable and helping the victims of the defendant's violence and our great city heal." 

James pleaded guilty to 10 counts of committing a terrorist attack against a mass transit vehicle along with a single firearms offense. During the court proceedings, James said he it had not his intention to kill anyone, though he knew that shooting in an enclosed subway car could cause multiple deaths, CNN reported. 

The investigation found that the attack was the culmination of substantial planning, federal prosecutors said, noting that as early as 2017, James purchased smoke grenades, ammunition, weapons and his MTA disguise. 

In the months leading up to the mass shooting in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, James internet history include searches for "MTA," "New York," "transit" and "stops on the N train." He also searched for "311 kings highway brooklyn ny," which is the address when his U-Haul van had been parked before the shooting occurred. 

Investigators reviewed social media posts and YouTube videos showing James making violent threats and going on tirades about race and New York City Mayor Eric Adams' policies. 

In one video James foreshadowed his plans for the shooting, stating that "if you hear the name Frank James on the news, if something happens to a Frank James that's 60-something years old, chances are that's me." 

James faces up to life in prison for each of the 11 counts. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled yet, prosecutors said.