‘I’m full of hate, anger, and bitterness’: Brooklyn subway suspect Frank James wanted ‘more mass shootings’ but was afraid of prison

·8 min read

In a video posted to his YouTube page in July 2020 titled The Good Ole Days, Frank James filmed himself riding the D train on the New York City subway.

The footage, shot pre-pandemic in August 2019, is taken from Mr James’ point of view, and in it he appears to be sizing up other passengers on the train, and holds a finger in front of the camera as he mumbles inaudibly to himself.

“That is a dry run,” one user commented after Tuesday’s mass shooting in the Brooklyn subway.

Frank James in a video posted to his YouTube account taken on the New York subway in 2019 (YouTube)
Frank James in a video posted to his YouTube account taken on the New York subway in 2019 (YouTube)

“It’s like we’re seeing the world thru his eyes and hearing him talk to himself,” another wrote.

In more than 400 posts to his YouTube account Prophet of Truth 88, Mr James posted unhinged rants about racism, homelessess, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and police brutality.

The account, which was terminated on Wednesday for “violating Community Guidelines”, offers a chilling glimpse into Mr James’ migratory life: one seemingly without contact with friends or family, in which he explained to his online audience all the ways in which the world has wronged him, and how he intended to pay it back.

Mr James, 62, was named a suspect on Wednesday morning in the attack on the Brooklyn subway which resulted in 10 riders being shot. Five were critically wounded, and 18 more were injured from shrapnel and smoke inhalation.

The NYPD used a screenshot from the account in a release appealing for information about Mr James. On Wednesday afternoon, Mr James was arrested in the East Village neighbourhood of New York. He faces a federal charge of a terror attack on mass transit.

In an expletive-filled clip posted just a day before the attacks titled DOMESTICATED AVERAGES, Mr James spoke about how he identified with those who committed acts of extreme violence.

“I’ve been through a lot of s***, where I can say I wanted to kill people. I wanted to watch people die right in front of my f***ing face immediately. But I thought about the fact that, hey man, I don’t want to go to no f***ing prison.”

In other videos, Mr James, who is Black, expressed his disdain for African-Americans, what he called “slave culture”, and his desire to see more mass shootings.

“There has to be more mass shootings to make a n***er understand… it’s not about the shooter, it’s about the environment in which he is, he has to exist.”

He would often film himself drinking alone while speaking to the camera. One entry shows a row of empty bottles of spirits lined up in his Airbnb room.

A screenshot from one of Frank James’s online videos (Frank James via YouTube)
A screenshot from one of Frank James’s online videos (Frank James via YouTube)

Mr James, who grew up in New York, showed particular animosity towards Mayor Eric Adams, whose security detail has been increased since the shooting.

He said he had been a “victim” of New York’s mental health programme, and that his experiences as an in-patient at psychiatric facilities in the Bronx and New Jersey had “made me more dangerous”.

“I’m 63 now full of hate, full of anger, and full of bitterness.”

A nationwide manhunt was underway on Wednesday for Mr James, who seemingly vanished without trace from the scene of the attack at the 36th Street subway station in Sunset Park on Tuesday morning.

Law enforcement gather near the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York (AP)
Law enforcement gather near the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York (AP)

Witnesses told how a man wearing a gas mask and green construction vest threw smoke canisters in the air as the N train pulled into the Brooklyn station just before 8.30am, before firing at least 33 times with a Glock 9-millimeter automatic handgun.

Police say he would have wounded or even killed more, but his weapon had jammed during the attack.

The mass casualty event brought terror once again to New York, Mr Adams said.

“We don’t know his motivation to make a classification if this was a terrorist act or not,” Mr Adams said Wednesday.

“But even without that designation, we know that he wanted to bring terror.”

Police recovered gas canisters and fireworks from a backpack at the station, as well as a hatchet, two extended clips of ammo, a fuse and a spray bottle of gasoline.

They also found keys to a U-Haul van with Arizona plates that was located about 8kms (5 miles) away from the subway on King’s Highway in Brooklyn.

Police say Mr James rented the van in Philadelphia, where he had previously lived.

Frank Robert James is pictured in images shared by the NYPD (NYPD)
Frank Robert James is pictured in images shared by the NYPD (NYPD)

According to rental agreements obtained by CNN, Mr James booked the van using a Milwaukee license and address on 6 April, picked it up on 11 April, and was due to return it two days later.

It appears he drove from Pennsylvania to New York on Monday, and parked the rented van on King’s Highway early Tuesday morning.

Surveillance footage obtained by CBS2 on Wednesday shows Mr James limping towards a subway station prior to the attack, with a trolley, a bag, and dressed in the same high-vis materials that witnesses identified from the attack.

Catherine James Robinson, one of Mr James’ sisters, toldthe New York Times her brother had “been on his own his whole life”.

She said he had lived a nomadic life, travelling from city to city his entire adult life, and that they had last spoken about three years ago when their younger sister died from a heart attack.

Ms Robinson was shocked that her brother had been linked to Tuesday’s attack, saying it was “not in his nature to do anything like that”.

In a separate interview with the Times, Keilah Miller said Mr James had moved into unit next to hers in Milwaukee in the past year.

She described him as aggressive and remote, and said he would grunt at her when she said hello in the morning.

His home was “dirty and messy”, she said, and she would hear him ranting on the phone about “ignorant people”.

He angrily confronted Ms Miller after she once left a key in her apartment door.

Ms Miller said she hadn’t seen Mr James since late March, and was concerned that he may have booby-trapped his apartment.

“They should probably go in there and sweep it with the police because this is terrifying now,” she told the Times.

Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on April 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City (Getty Images)
Police and emergency responders gather at the site of a reported shooting of multiple people outside of the 36 St subway station on April 12, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City (Getty Images)

Mr James appears to have been acquiring weapons to use in the attack for at least a decade.

ATF officers traced the Glock pistol used in the shooting, and found that the suspect had purchased it from a pawn shop in Ohio more than 10 years ago, CBS reported.

He also purchased several items from Phantom Fireworks in Racine, Wisconsin, last June, including a white smoke device called Canister Smoke, the company’s vice president William Weiner told The Daily Beast.

The FBI debunked reports that the suspect was previously known to federal law enforcement.

NBC New York reported had a criminal record dating back to 1992 for minor offences including larceny, disorderly conduct and trespassing.

Sources told the news site that Mr James had also made “terroristic threats” that appeared to come from someone who was emotionally disturbed.

The US attorney for the Eastern District of New York is weighing whether to file federal criminal charges over the subway attack, including using a weapon/arson on mass transit/train.

Frank James set out his plans for a ‘doomsday’ style event in dozens of videos posted to his YouTube account (YouTube)
Frank James set out his plans for a ‘doomsday’ style event in dozens of videos posted to his YouTube account (YouTube)

In a series of recent YouTube videos, Mr James documented his plans to pack up his apartment in Milwaukee and hire a U-Haul van in Philadelphia.

He spoke of how the prospect of returning to the “danger zone” of Philadelphia had triggered negative thoughts, and that he had suffered from “post-traumatic stress”.

Mr James said in a clip uploaded on 23 February titled “negrotude” that his tax refund had been more than he was expecting, and he was using the several thousand dollars to fund his upcoming trip.

He’d been getting the “shakes” after trying to give up drinking, he said.

On 21 March, Mr James posted a clip apparently from Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Doomsday is actually about to be here,” he says in the clip.

Four days later, Mr James was seen driving through Philadelphia. Days later, he says he’s checked into a Best Western in Bordentown, New Jersey.

“Here I am, back, back, back in the place where all my troubles started,” he says.

“The state of f***ing stinking New Jersey, sitting here in Bordentown the next couple of days. And as you saw, the end of my journey, or part of the end of my journey, in Philadelphia, at my storage facility, getting everything put away.”

Mr James says he is only staying in New Jersey for a couple of days.

“Damage is just too deep. Damage is just way too f***ing deep. And so I think the second phase of what took place on 9/11 is about to take place. And that’s why Putin’s over here sabre-rattling.”

In one recent chilling video, Mr James says that he’s “made up his mind” that he “may have to hurt somebody”.

“Because there’s no way that I’m going to do what society asks me to do, which is to try to be—to work hard to play fair, keep my nose to the old grindstone, pull myself by the bootstraps, you know, go to work, pay my taxes, do everything you asked me to do, and then you’re going to smack me in the face.”

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