Subway shootings echo an earlier railway rampage

I'm an old guy, but I still have a pretty good memory.  And I'm a former New Yorker.  So when I heard about the subway shootings in Brooklyn Tuesday morning, and that the suspect was Black, my first thought was to wonder if Colin Ferguson were out of prison and had reprised his 1993 shooting rampage on the Long Island Railroad, in which he shot 25 people, six of them fatally.

Well, it turns out that Colin Ferguson is still in prison.  But it's hard to ignore the similarities.

Colin Ferguson (via Twitter).

Ferguson's attack was as clearly premeditated as was the subway incident.  And both attacks were begun while the train was still in motion, approaching the station, so the passengers in both cases were sitting ducks.  Both perpetrators had brought enough ammunition to shoot many more passengers.

I've yet to see a breakdown by race or ethnicity of the Brooklyn subway victims, but none of the people shot by Ferguson was Black.  That could have been a function of no Black people in the railcar.  But both Ferguson and the suspect in the Brooklyn shootings (now identified as one Frank R. James) have a well-documented history of animus and threats directed at White people (although some Black politicians have not been exempt from their vitriol).

Ferguson had long exhibited signs of mental instability, and not just in taking five showers a day and annoying his neighbors with his midnight chanting; he had an obsession with being a victim of racism and had voiced paranoid fantasies about Blacks rising up and slaying their white oppressors. While majoring in business administration, he had been suspended for interrupting lectures with cries of "Kill all the white people!" It's impossible to ignore the parallels with what we know of suspect Frank R. James's social media posts, steeped in race-based hostility.

One big difference between the two cases is that Ferguson was apprehended in the act, thanks to the bravery and mettle of persons on the train.  Having expended two 15-round magazines and while inserting a third, Ferguson was rushed, tackled, and disarmed by at least three passengers; other passengers helped restrain him until an off-duty LIRR officer slapped the bracelets on him.

It will be interesting to see, if and when Frank R. James is brought to trial, whether his defense will resemble that of Colin Ferguson.  While the planning and premeditation (in either case) would seem to contradict an insanity plea, that didn't stop Ferguson from putting his insanity on display, going so far as to claim that "I didn't shoot them; they shot me!" and that some other individual had been the actual perpetrator.  And when radical attorneys William Kunstler and Ron Kuby got involved (pro bono) in Ferguson's case, they trotted out the "Black rage" defense (based on a 1968 book by two psychologists), claiming that Ferguson could not be responsible for his actions on the grounds that living in a racist, White supremacist society causes irreparable psychological damage to Black persons, causing them to be mentally unbalanced and to behave abnormally.

I remember the late William Kunstler as the lead defense lawyer in the trial of the Chicago Seven (who were charged with conspiring to incite riots during the 1968 Democrat National Convention).  He never met an America-hating radical or a terrorist he didn't like, and when I listened to him speak, I thought I could hear him foaming at the mouth with his passion for his clients and their "causes."

I'm sure Kunstler was thrilled to lay out the "Black rage" defense for Ferguson and (despite Ferguson ultimately firing his lawyers and defending himself, and being convicted), were he alive today, would jump at the opportunity to represent Frank R. James using a similar defense.  But I'm equally sure that there will be other attorneys lining up to offer similar strategies (especially given today's ubiquitous rhetoric about "systemic racism").

Meanwhile, Colin Ferguson will be guaranteed three square meals a day, with climate control, medical and dental care, TV, a gym, and possibly internet access, and maybe even conjugal visits, until 2039 (barring being set free by some radical "prison reform," because nowadays, anything is possible!), and neither he nor the perpetrator of Tuesday's subway shootings (if convicted) ever has to worry about facing the death penalty, no matter how many people they've murdered or attempted to murder, because, in their wisdom, New York State's lawmakers have declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

Stu Tarlowe has, since 2010, contributed well over 150 pieces to American Thinker. For some 15 years, he was the personal editor for the late Barry Farber; more recently he was a staff writer for a magazine forecasting political and societal trends, but when he had to be hospitalized for COVID he was replaced. Now recovered, he writes on a variety of topics (political and personal) in his newsletter at and is seeking another gig as a writer/editor/proofreader.

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