James, 62, is the man authorities say wore a gas mask, dropped a smoke bomb and opened fire on a crowded subway in Brooklyn Tuesday morning.
He was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon.
NYPD Commissioner Kitchener Sewell said James was spotted by passersby in the St. Marks Place area and First Avenue in the East Village.
Among the calls that came to Crime Stoppers was a man who claimed to be the suspect himself.
According to police sources, James called the New York Police Department and told them he was the man the police were looking for and that he wanted to turn himself in.
“I think you’re looking for me,” the caller said. “I see my picture on all the news and I’ll be around this McDonald’s.”
They say he gave a name and a description of what he wore. He reportedly told police his phone was dying and that he would be at McDonald’s and charging his phone or in front of him when police arrived.
By the time police responded, he had left McDonald’s on East 6th Street and First Avenue.
When officers did not find him at a restaurant, they wandered around the neighborhood looking for him. According to police sources, good Samaritans told police they think the suspect is down the block.
James was then observed standing at the kiosk and charging his phone. He was arrested without incident in St. Mark’s and First Avenue, and was transferred to the 9th District.
“New Yorkers, we got it,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “We caught him.”
Related | Frank R. James: What we know about a Brooklyn subway shooting suspect
James will be charged under federal law prohibiting terrorist attacks and other violent attacks in the mass transit system. The federal government will also accuse him of crossing state lines.
“We hope this arrest will bring some comfort to the victims and residents of New York City,” Sewell said. “We used every resource at our disposal to gather and process significant evidence that directly linked Mr James Leary. We were able to shrink his world quickly. He had nowhere to run.”
Watch the full special report on James’ arrest here:
Officials say the investigation is still ongoing, and call anyone with more information to call the NYPD Police Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
James will face life in prison if convicted of assault, which left at least 29 people shot or otherwise injured, shaking a city that is no longer worried about the sharp rise in crime.
Officials said every possible motive was still unclear, but witnesses said the lone gunman appeared to be mumbling to himself wearing a reflective vest before wearing the gas mask and removing a container from his bag that filled the car with smoke. He then started firing.
Ten people were hit by bullets, while others were shaken or injured in the chaos that followed.
None of the injured were considered life-threatening, and authorities said a magazine stuck in the gun could save lives.
After the shooting, NYPD Detective Commander James Assig said James boarded an R train that entered the station and traveled one stop before exiting at 25th Street Station. Afterwards, James was seen again at a subway station in Park Slope, just under an hour later Then before it fades from the eye.
Authorities identified James as the person who interested him Tuesday night, but by Wednesday, after the investigation linked James to the crime in many ways, Mayor Eric Adams said he was considered a suspect and a wanted fugitive.
This determination was made overnight after more than 18 hours of interrogation that included video, cell phone data and witness interviews.
“There was a clear desire to create terrorism,” Adams said. “If you bring a smoke bomb or you bring a semi-automatic weapon with a gas mask and are very systematically injured … innocent New Yorkers, it’s terrorism.”
Related | The Brooklyn subway shooting raises concerns about public transportation safety
While the cameras at the station did not work, law enforcement officials were able to get a picture of the suspect from a passerby’s cell phone video. New York police then located a U-Haul pickup truck on Kings Highway in Gravesend that they believe James was traveling to New York from Philadelphia on Monday.
They said a pillow inside indicates he may be sleeping there, and a nearby subway station is where they believe he entered the system.
The keys to this van were found in the belongings of the shooter left behind at the subway station, said NYPD Detective Chief James Assig.
Also in the arena were a 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol, three extended magazines, an ax, gasoline, four smoke grenades (two were blown up and two were not blown up) and a bag of fireworks for the consumer, and the credit card said he used to rent the U-Haul. Purchased from a licensed pawn shop in Ohio in 2011, the ATF stated.
The gun, and the purchase of a gas mask on eBay, are among the evidence that raised James from an interesting person to a suspect, sources said.
Investigators also became more comfortable calling James a suspect after re-interviewing witnesses who initially gave a height description of the shooter that did not match James’ 6-foot frame.
Phantom Fireworks confirmed in a statement that James had purchased products in Wisconsin, believed to have been left behind at the 36th Street subway station.
Authorities have not found significant criminal arrests in James’ criminal history, only a number of charges of felony offenses. But James was known to the NYPD with a rap sheet that lasted six years, 1992 to 1998, with nine previous arrests.
Related | Witnesses describe a chaotic scene after the shooting on the New York subway
James ‘defamatory social media posts appear to be highly critical of the mayor for his homeless policies, including videos full of racist and sexist insults and raging remarks about Adams’ repression of people living on the subway.
Mayor Adams appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday and said officials are considering the use of state-of-the-art metal detectors in the city’s subway system to move forward.
“This is not the traditional metal detector you see at airports,” Adams said. “Technology has advanced so much. When you think about it, we have not advanced with technology. Cities … When it comes to better protection of citizens, I am open to any technology.”
* More news in Brooklyn
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for new alerts
* Follow us on youtube
Submit a news tip
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All rights reserved.