Brooklyn subway shooting suspect casually ate lunch at tourist hotspot Katz’s Deli before capture

·6 min read

Brooklyn subway shooting suspect Frank James casually ate lunch at Manhattan tourist hotspot Katz’s Deli while a huge manhunt was underway and extra police officers roamed the streets of New York City, it has been revealed.

Mr James, 62, was on the run for almost 30 hours after allegedly carrying out Tuesday’s terrorist attack on a subway in the Sunset Park neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

The suspected terrorist is accused of donning a gas mask on a packed N train travelling northbound and opening a gas canister, before opening fire on passengers as the train pulled into 36 Street station.

Ten people were shot and around 20 more injured in the horror attack, with all victims miraculously surviving.

Mr James then evaded capture for more than a day, before finally being arrested at 1.42pm on Wednesday in the East Village of Manhattan – over 29 hours after Tuesday’s 8.26am mass shooting.

He was only arrested after calling CrimeStoppers himself and telling police he was at a McDonald’s and would be charging his phone in the fast food joint or outside. He was taken into custody without incident close by at St. Mark’s Place and First Avenue soon after the call.

It has now emerged that, rather than laying low, Mr James spent his last 30 hours of freedom brazenly enjoying different neighbourhoods and dining in popular eateries around the Big Apple – sparking further questions around why it took law enforcement so long to track him down.

The 62-year-old spent Tuesday night in a hostel in Chelsea opposite a police precinct, had breakfast on Wednesday at a trendy health food spot, and then had lunch at Katz’s Deli, according to NY Daily News, which pieced together his jaunt from various eyewitness accounts and police sources.

Several law enforcement sources told the outlet that Mr James stayed at the Chelsea International Hostel on West 20th Street the night of the attack.

The hostel is in the heart of the popular neighbourhood of Chelsea, which is typically regarded as one of the best areas of New York.

It is also directly opposite the NYPD’s 10th Precinct.

Iconic Katz’s Deli in New York where Frank James dined before capture (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Iconic Katz’s Deli in New York where Frank James dined before capture (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

After spending the night in Chelsea, Mr James decided to hit up Chinatown the following morning.

A source told NY Daily News that they spotted Mr James sitting outside trendy restaurant Dimes in the area staring into space at around 10.30am on Wednesday.

“He just sat there with the duffle bag looking off into space. No phone, nothing. And the bag was heavy,” the source said.

When he left, a customer called the police and employees were interviewed after Mr James had been arrested later, the source said.

The Chinatown spot is known for its healthy Californian-style food.

A couple of hours later, the 62-year-old continued his tour of Manhattan’s food spots when he went to Katz’s Deli for lunch, a separate source told the outlet.

The iconic deli, famous for its pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, is a popular stop for tourists to the Big Apple with a line of customers often snaking down the Lower East Side.

It is not clear if Mr James lined up outside in full view of passers-by and NYPD officers who were patrolling the city in search of the suspect.

Workers at Katz’s Deli told NY Daily News they had no idea the most wanted man in New York had been dining there.

After enjoying lunch, Mr James then went to McDonald’s in the East Village where he called CrimeStoppers at around 1pm.

One New Yorker said he left McDonald’s and had a quick beer before the police arrived and located him.

“We heard he came to McDonald’s and then went and got a beer afterwards. Our friend saw him,” said Salim Brisbane. “What the actual f***?”

The revelations that Mr James was walking around the city’s busiest areas in plain sight bring further embarrassment to the NYPD and New York officials as questions continue to mount over how the gunman managed to evade capture for so long.

New York officials were quick to take credit for his arrest with Mayor Eric Adams proudly announcing in Wednesday’s press conference “we got him”.

Frank James is led to a car from the 9th Precinct following his arrest (AP)
Frank James is led to a car from the 9th Precinct following his arrest (AP)

NYPD Commissioner Keechant 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”.

However, the search was hampered from the get-go thanks to broken camera systems at the scene of the attack.

On Tuesday, officials admitted that the entire camera system in the 36 Street subway station where the attack took place were 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.

As a result, it was many hours before a photo of Mr James was finally released to the public.

Police said that Mr James discarded his disguise of a gas mask, orange construction vest and yellow hard hat and jumped onto an R train at 36 Street along with panicked New Yorkers trying to flee from the attack.

He travelled one stop to 25 Street where he was seen on surveillance footage exiting the station.

In Wednesday’s press conference announcing his arrest, officials said that the last known whereabouts of Mr James prior to him being located in the East Village was at 9.15am on Tuesday morning when he was seen entering a subway station at Park Slope.

This left a gap of almost 30 hours where officials appeared to have no clue to his whereabouts.

Several New Yorkers have also revealed they helped officers in the apprehension of the alleged terrorist including 21-year-old Syrian man Zack Tahhan.

Mr Tahhan grabbed the microphone of a local news station on Wednesday and told how he recognised 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.

Mayor Adams ramped up the number of police officers on patrol across the city – in particular on the subway system – while the manhunt was underway.

Mr James is charged with one federal count of carrying out a terrorist attack on a mass transit system.

He appeared in court for the first time on Thursday where prosecutors compared the terror he wrought on the city to the September 11 terrorist attacks and the suspect was ordered to be held without bond.

On Friday, Mayor Adams is expected to honour the frontline MTA workers who helped to save New Yorkers from Tuesday’s attack in a ceremony in city hall.