Brooklyn subway shooting suspect Frank James possibly did 'test run' of smoke grenades at NYC airfield: report

Police reportedly received tip about someone testing smoke grenades at NYC airfield early Tuesday

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The accused Brooklyn subway terrorist Frank James might have conducted a test run of smoke grenades at nearby New York City airfield before the Tuesday morning shooting attack, according to a report. 

In the hours after James was apprehended in Manhattan’s East Village Wednesday afternoon, police received a tip that a white van, possibly a U-Haul, had been spotted early Tuesday at the Floyd Bennett Field, an airfield in the Marine Park neighborhood of Brooklyn along the Jamaica Bay, WNBC reported, citing three unnamed law enforcement sources. 

The tipster added that someone might have been testing smoke grenades around the same time in a wooded area nearby. 

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As a result, members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD Crime Scene unit were at the airfield Wednesday evening recovering remnants of smoke grenades, WNBC’s report said. Investigators stressed to the outlet that it was far too early to determine if there was any connection to James or if the subway attack suspect did conduct a test run of smoke grenades at the airfield.  

Subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, is led away from a police station in New York, Wednesday, April 13, 2022.

Subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, is led away from a police station in New York, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NYPD has said James donned a gas mask, detonated a smoke grenade and opened fired inside a Manhattan-bound N train and at the 36 St. subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, around 8:24 a.m. Tuesday. At least 29 people were injured, including 10 individuals who suffered gunshot wounds. Five individuals were in critical condition following the attack. No fatalities have been reported. 

James was taken into custody around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the East Village, concluding a nearly 30-hour manhunt. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday on a charge that pertains to terrorist or other violent attacks against mass transit systems and carries a sentence of up to life in prison, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. 

Among the calls that came into Crime Stoppers was a man who claimed to be James himself. 

"I think you're looking for me," the caller said, according to WNBC. "I'm seeing my picture all over the news, and I'll be around this McDonald's."

Investigators said James was staying at an Airbnb in Philadelphia, rented a U-Haul the day before the attack, and drove into New York City around 4 a.m. Tuesday, the New York Post reported.  

Surveillance cameras at the 36th St. station were not working at the time of the shooting, but graphic cellphone images and video showed smoke and puddles of blood as people were lying on the platform. 

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Investigators believe James blended in with commuters and took an R train to the next stop on 25th St., where cameras were also not working at the time. James was then placed at the Park Slope's Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue subway station around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, less than an hour after the attack, NYPD Chief of Detective James Essig said.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.