James was taken into custody after police received a Crime Stoppers tip directing them to the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, authorities said.
“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who is in isolation following a positive Covid-19 test, told reporters in a video feed.
He will be charged with a federal crime, for allegedly carrying out a terrorist act on mass transit, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said.
Earlier on Wednesday, authorities called James a suspect rather than a person of interest.
Surveillance video obtained by NBC New York apparently showed James swiping a subway card, trying to enter a station before Tuesday’s attack, giving authorities a clearer look at the suspect.
The shift in language came after another key development in the ongoing probe, with investigators linking the gun allegedly used in the Tuesday morning rush-hour attack to James and an Ohio pawn shop, law enforcement sources said.
Cellphones buzzed shortly after James was named a suspect, urging New Yorkers to call authorities if they see him.
A 9mm Glock handgun left at the scene has been traced by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators to James and a pawn shop in Columbus, law enforcement said. The suspect purchased it there in 2011, sources said.
A $50,000 reward was offered to find James, who police said had addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia.
He rented a U-Haul van, the keys of which were found at the scene of the shooting in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, according to authorities.
That van was discovered in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn, about 5 miles from the Sunset Park attack.
Investigators have obtained surveillance video, taken near that van, appearing to show the suspect walking into a subway station, law enforcement sources said. Footage captured that grainy figure carrying a bag, similar to the one recovered at the shooting scene, into the the Kings Highway station, which serves the N line.
Tuesday’s shooting was carried out as a Manhattan-bound N train pulled into the 36th Street station.
The bag left behind at the station included a variety of fireworks and other pyrotechnic equipment that an Ohio-based fireworks seller believes came from him, he told NBC News.
Based on widely circulated pictures of this bag, Phantom Fireworks CEO Bruce Zoldan said that images show four distinct, proprietary items that link to his business — and they were purchased in June last year in Wisconsin by a 62-year-old man named Frank James.
“We found people (in sales records) that bought two of those items, individuals that bought three of those items, individuals that bought one of those items,” Zoldan said. “Only one person bought four of those items, exact four items.”
He ordered additional police staffing on subways Tuesday and urged his fellow New Yorkers to keep using public transit, in the wake of this attack.
Adams retweeted pictures of City Hall staffers who rode rails on Wednesday, adding: “Proud of this team.”
Before the subway attack, James appeared to post several rambling videos on YouTube in which he voiced bigoted and controversial views as well as scathing criticism of Adams and his public safety policies and homeless outreach programs on trains.
In a video posted Monday, he said he had experienced the desire to kill people but didn’t want to go to jail.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
David K. Li, Pete Williams and Alec Hernandez contributed.