Frank James, the suspected gunman who opened fire in a Brooklyn subway train, reportedly cried “like a little baby” shortly before his arrest.
Gentrid Hasangjekaj, 21, told the New York Post he was in the middle of his shift at Stromboli Pizza when a teary-eyed man walked in asking for help. Hasangjekaj said the man, whom he didn’t immediately recognize, entered the East Village eatery at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, just 18 hours after James allegedly shot 10 people on a Manhattan-bound N train.
“He was crying like a little baby,” Hasangjekaj recalled. “He says, ‘Oh, I lost my family,’ this and that, and I felt bad. I thought, ‘Whatever, let me help.’ I didn’t know who he was. I gave him water. I gave him napkins.”
At the time of the encounter, federal and local authorities were conducting a manhunt for James, who was considered a “person of interest” in the subway shooting.
“I asked him three times, ‘Where you from? How long you been lost?’ He didn’t say nothing,” Hasangjekaj said about the suspect. “It was like he wasn’t hearing what I was asking him.”
The employee claimed James had approached four patrons eating outside the pizzeria, and told them he was blind. The suspect allegedly asked the men if they could borrow their phones. Hasangjekaj couldn’t confirm whether the men obliged, but said James also asked to borrow his phone after walking into Stromboli.
Hasangjekaj told the Post he gave James his device, and that the man had called a number that was listed as belonging to a man and woman in Virginia Beach. According to the outlet, James claimed the number—which has since been disconnected—belonged to his wife. Hasangjekaj said James also tried to contact the woman via Facebook, but she never replied.
The man reportedly left the eatery after about half an hour without ordering any food.
Hasangjekaj said he didn’t realize the distraught man was the suspected subway shooter until a coworker later pointed it out to him.
“I’m talking to the guy who shot 10 people,” he said. “I’m surprised. It’s, like, ‘Wow. It’s crazy.’”
Police told the Post they are aware of Hasangjekaj’s claims and are investigating.
James was taken into custody Wednesday and charged with one count of terrorism on a mass transportation system. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.