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Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release
www.justice.gov/opa
Thursday, October 5, 2023

Frank James Sentenced to Life in Prison for Subway Mass Shooting

Defendant Fired 32 Rounds, Wounding 10 Defenseless Victims Before His Gun Jammed on a Crowded Subway Car in Brooklyn

Frank James, 62, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz II to 10 concurrent life sentences in prison, plus 10 years to run consecutively for shooting 10 people during an attack on the New York City subway in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, on April 12, 2022. James previously pleaded guilty to all 11 counts of a superseding indictment, which included 10 counts of committing a terrorist attack or other violence against a mass transportation vehicle – one count for each gunshot victim – and one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of his violent attack.

“Nothing can undo the damage that Frank James’s mass shooting inflicted on the 10 victims who were shot or the dozens more who suffered other injuries, but this sentence ensures that he will spend the rest of his life in prison for the devastation he caused,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This sentence also makes clear that the Justice Department has no tolerance for crimes that terrorize our communities and will ensure accountability for those who perpetrate them.”

“Whenever domestic violent extremists violate our laws and commit heinous acts of violence against the American public, the FBI will work hand in hand with our law enforcement partners at all levels to pursue justice for the victims and hold criminals accountable for their abhorrent actions,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The public we serve deserves nothing less.”

“In an act of cold-blooded terrorism, this defendant shot 32 rounds at defenseless victims trapped in a subway car during their rush hour commute,” said Director Steven Dettelbach of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “ATF agents immediately responded to the scene of the shooting and joined their state, local and federal law enforcement partners in the investigation. When a gun was recovered on the subway platform, ATF conducted an urgent trace of the crime gun to identify the purchaser, ultimately leading to the name of the shooter. Today’s sentence not only reflects the heinousness of the crimes committed, but it reflects the extraordinary work of all the law enforcement and prosecutors involved. It takes the best of the best to catch the worst of the worst.”

“Today’s sentence delivered the necessary penalty for Frank James who callously carried out a terroristic mass shooting on a crowded subway car, intentionally attempting to kill innocent people, and spilling much blood,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “He wounded 10 victims in his planned out attack and affected the lives of many more. Every one of the victims who experienced that horror feared that they would never see their children or loved ones again. It is appropriate that the defendant will never know freedom again and will spend the rest of his life in prison so that no one can be harmed further by him. I hope that this sentence brings some closure to the many victims of this violent attack and brings comfort to the city at large in knowing that justice was done.”

During rush hour on the morning of April 12, 2022, James used a Glock 17 pistol he legally purchased to conduct a mass shooting on an N subway train in Brooklyn. James planned his act of terror for years – purchasing smoke bombs, disguises, firearms, and ammunition. He scouted the location for his attack and completed multiple practice runs. As part of his attack, James, disguised in an orange reflective jacket and yellow hard hat to look like a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) employee, set off a smoke-bomb in a subway car before opening fire on his captive victims. Panicked passengers ran to the far end of the subway car, allowing James to shoot at his victims more easily. When the defendant started shooting, the train was between stations and then temporarily stalled, leaving victims trapped. In total, 10 victims were struck by 16 bullets fired by the defendant. Dozens more suffered from smoke inhalation and other mental and physical injuries due to the defendant’s attack. James then fled the scene of the attack, changing his clothing frequently to evade detection while law enforcement engaged in a 36-hour manhunt to find him and bring him to justice.   

At some point after the shooting, James purchased a burner phone which he used to follow the coverage of his attack while hiding from law enforcement. For example, James watched 31 videos of news reports about his subway shooting. He also watched a James Bond chase scene from the movie “No Time to Die” 10 times after the attack. Finally, James turned himself in by calling the NYPD crime stoppers hotline on April 13, 2022, the day after the mass shooting.

The New York Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the case, with valuable assistance provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the ATF.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara K. Winik and Ellen H. Sise for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case with valuable assistance provided by the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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