NEW YORK — The NYPD increased security for Eric Adams Tuesday after complaints about the mayor surfaced on social media in the wake of the subway shooting that wounded 23 commuters.
Police also released a photo of a person of interest in the investigation. Officials are seeking Wisconsin resident Frank James, 62, in connection with the shooting aboard a Brooklyn subway train during Tuesday morning’s rush hour. NYPD officials are unsure if James is the same person who posted videos to YouTube about a variety of topics that included the mayor’s crime-fighting plan, they said during a press conference Tuesday evening.
“We’re not calling them threats. He made some concerning posts, or someone made some concerning posts. We cannot attribute it to that individual yet; that’s under investigation,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said from NYPD headquarters in Lower Manhattan, where she was joined by police brass and a representative from the FBI. “In an abundance of caution, we are tightening the mayor’s security detail.”
Sewell said the references to Adams, while not direct threats, were concerning enough to lead her to beef up the mayor’s security detail, which is currently overseen by his brother.
The Daily Beast reported one video warned Adams that a proposal he released in January to combat gun violence was “doomed to fail.” A man named Frank James uploaded the post in late January saying he hoped to speak to the mayor — a retired police captain — about his anti-gun blueprint, according to the article. “Because I see some serious flaws in his plan,” said James, who identified himself as a native New Yorker.
Asked for further details about the videos, Sewell simply described them as “general comments that caused us some concern” that are under investigation.
Police discovered James, who has ties to Philadelphia and Wisconsin, through a key to a U-Haul van he rented before the shooting. It was parked several miles from the location of the incident in another part of Brooklyn, they said.
At the scene in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, police discovered a handgun, four smoke grenades, gasoline, a hatchet and consumer-grade fireworks. The shooter — wearing a gray hoodie, surgical mask and neon green construction helmet — opened two smoke grenades, tossed them on the floor of the train car and fired his handgun at least 33 times before fleeing the scene, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
Ten people were hit by gunfire and another 13 were injured.
Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the assailant.
The mayor addressed New Yorkers in televised interviews throughout the day and joined Tuesday night's press conference virtually from Gracie Mansion, where he has been quarantining since testing positive with Covid-19 over the weekend.
“Today was a difficult day for New Yorkers. Days like these are playing out too often in cities across America,” Adams said during the press conference, describing the subway car as a “war zone” and decrying the “cult of death” caused by firearms.
The mayor referenced decades of mass shootings across the country — Columbine, Colo. in 1999; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut 13 years later; and, closer to home, the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old in the Bronx.
“This is not only a New York City problem,” Adams said. “This rage, this violence, these guns — these relentless shooters are an American problem and it’s going to take all levels of government to solve it.”
Adams, who campaigned on restoring public safety in New York City, has increased targeted police units that patrol high-crime areas for illegal handguns and ordered police officers to eliminate homeless encampments and move people sleeping on subways into city-run shelters. But so far crime has continued to increase, though experts say it is too early in his tenure for him to affect change.
“Ending gun violence means changing gun laws,” Adams said. “You cannot clean up any flooding when the water is still pouring into the basement.”
Meanwhile during two of his televised interviews Adams would not rule out pushing for metal detectors in the city’s subway system, which is under state control.
“Is the time now to consider putting in something like metal detectors to prevent people with weapons and metal and this kind of thing from getting on the train?” WCBS anchor Maurice DuBois asked. “People just need to feel safe. Is that one of the answers?”
“I truly believe that,” Adams replied. “I’m often criticized when I talk about technology being used to identify those who are carrying illegal guns. This is why I am sending my deputy mayor of public safety to scan the entire country and globe to find ways that we could identify guns. We must marry technology with safety and I am going to be willing to do so.”
His communications director Maxwell Young later tweeted that the mayor “was talking about using innovative technology to keep the subways safe. He was (of course) not saying we should consider using airport style metal detectors. He’s a frequent rider and obviously knows that’s not practical.”