Five New Yorkers will split a $50,000 reward after they sent in tips that helped lead to the capture of the Brooklyn subway shooting suspect.
Officials announced that the five tipsters, who have not been publicly named, will be given an equal $10,000 share of the reward money following the arrest of accused terrorist Frank James in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr James, 62, is accused of carrying out a premeditated terrorist attack on a subway in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn during Tuesday morning’s rush hour.
The suspect, who has ties to New York City, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Ohio, allegedly set off a smoke bomb inside a carriage of an N train headed for Manhattan before firing 33 shots with a Glock 9mm handgun at terrified commuters.
Ten people were shot and wounded in the attack while over a dozen more suffered other injuries such as smoke inhalation.
Mr James went on the run and managed to evade capture for almost 30 hours before finally being arrested at 1.42pm on Wednesday in the East Village of Manhattan.
He was only taken into custody after the suspected terrorist called the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers himself and told them he was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan.
“This is Frank. You guys are looking for me,” he said in a chilling phone call, law enforcement sources have revealed.
Several members of the public had also been sending in tips and reporting sightings while witnesses to his arrest have spoken out about how they helped officers with his apprehension.
Zack Tahhan, a 21-year-old Syrian man, told how he recognized the alleged shooter while he was fixing a camera outside a convenience store in East Village. He said he followed Mr James and then hailed down a police car to direct officers to the suspect.
It is not clear if Mr Tahhan is among the individuals rewarded for helping police with Mr James’ capture as the reward details are confidential.
Announcing the reward allocation, New York City Mayor Eric Adams praised the public for their help in tracking down the suspect, describing their bravery as “what truly make New York City the greatest city in the world.”
“Thanks to the help of these five good Samaritans, the NYPD was able to do its job and get a dangerous suspect off the streets just hours after his picture was released,” he said.
“The bravery of these five individuals are what truly make New York City the greatest city in the world.”
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the members of the public “our best partner” and thanked everyone who “responded to our call for information to locate this suspect, including all of those whose tips did not pan out”.
“We urged the public to join us in this effort to find this suspect and New Yorkers stepped up,” she said.
The NYPD had put forward $25,000 for information leading to the suspect’s arrest, while the MTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 100 each offered $12,500.
While New Yorkers have been praised for their bravery in the wake of the horror attack, the city’s officials continue to face pointed questions over the manhunt for the suspected terrorist and the handling of the investigation.
By the time Mr James was in police custody, he had spent almost 30 hours traveling around the city evading capture despite the entire NYPD searching for him.
A senior law enforcement official has insisted on NBC New York that the net was already closing in on the suspect even before he called in Crime Stoppers himself as investigators were combing through the Lower East Side following a sighting posted on Twitter.
The source also defended law enforcement for losing track of Mr James’ movements blaming the fact that he was using a different MetroCard to the one he used just before the attack and had a second cellphone – both of which investigators were unaware of at the time.
Yet, the investigation was laden with problems from the get-go as the entire camera system in the 36 Street subway station where the attack took place was down at the time of the shooting.
It has since emerged that the MTA was aware of the malfunction two days earlier but had failed to fix it.
This hampered the investigation as there was no surveillance footage of the suspect at the scene of the crime and so it took many hours before a photo of Mr James was finally released to the public on Tuesday night.
The subway system was also not immediately shuttered following the attack, enabling the suspect to board another train to flee the scene.
It later emerged that – rather than lying low – Mr James was able to travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan where he had a jaunt around the city, right under the noses of law enforcement.
The 62-year-old spent the night of the attack at the Chelsea International Hostel on West 20th Street – directly opposite the NYPD’s 10th Precinct.
After spending the night in Chelsea, Mr James was then spotted at a trendy health food spot in Chinatown the next morning, before reportedly dining at the iconic eatery Katz’s Deli, according to NYDailyNews.
Despite the concerning revelations of Mr James’ jaunt, New York officials were quick to take credit for his arrest with Mayor Adams proudly announcing his arrest with “we got him”.
NYPD Commissioner Sewell also attributed his capture to “nearly 30 hours of dogged police work” saying that “from the moment Mr James committed this appalling crime, the police began shrinking his world until he had nowhere to turn”.
Mr James rented a U-Haul van from Philadelphia and drove to Brooklyn in the early hours of 12 April, according to court documents.
There, he allegedly donned a disguise of an orange construction vest and yellow hard hat and entered the subway system with a rolling bag and backpack.
Brooklyn residents describe ‘heartbreak’ after subway shooting injuries 28
He boarded an N train heading northbound and, at around 8.26am, he put on a gas mask and opened a gas canister, before opening fire on passengers as the train pulled into 36 Street station.
Following the attack, investigators said he discarded the disguise and jumped onto another train with passengers fleeing the attack, before exiting the subway system one stop along at 25 Street station.
At 36 Street station, police found the handgun used in the attack, a container with gasoline, a torch and fireworks with explosive powder left behind.
A trove of weapons and paraphernalia was also discovered at a lockup in Pennsylvania registered under the suspect’s name, said prosecutors.
Mr James appeared in court for the first time on Thursday where he was held without bail on a federal charge of carrying out a terrorist attack on a mass transit system.
The judge granted his legal team’s request to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and he is now being held in isolation and on suicide watch at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
A motive for the attack is still unclear but Mr James’ now-removed YouTube account contains hundreds of videos of rants about various topics including Mayor Adams, the New York City mental health system, the subway and race in America.