The man suspected of planting bombs in New York and New Jersey over the weekend was charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law-enforcement officer on Monday following a police chase and shoot-out in Linden, New Jersey, earlier in the day. His bail was set at $5.2 million, and he is expected to face further charges.
Ahmad Khan Rahami — a 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen living in Elizabeth, New Jersey — was reportedly shot by law enforcement after firing on cops. Rahami was “conscious and awake” when taken away in an ambulance, though the extent of his injuries is unknown.
Around 10:30 a.m., reports of an active shooter emerged from Linden, New Jersey, about 15 minutes away from the suspect’s alleged residence, which was raided by the FBI on Monday morning. People on social media described the sound of repeated gunshots, and video and photos circulating on social media appear to show the aftermath, including one image of the suspect disarmed and lying on the concrete near the edge of the street.
CBS New York reports that police zeroed in on Rahami after receiving a call complaining that an unknown individual was sleeping in the doorway of a local bar. Linden police responded to the disturbance and went to wake the man up, assuming he was an indigent person. Cops roused that individual — now believed to be Rahami — and “saw that he had a beard and resembled the wanted person from the poster,” Linden police captain James Sarnicki told reporters. Police asked the man to show his hands, and the suspect pulled out a gun and began to shoot the officers. Rahami fled, exchanging fire with police and sending a barrage of bullets down the street. The suspect was finally taken down by police after officers shot and wounded the alleged bomber. A surveillance video captured part of the chase:
Two cops were also hurt in the crossfire, but their injuries are not believed to be serious. One was hit in the abdomen at close range when Rahami fired from the doorway, but the officer was protected by a bulletproof vest. Another cop was injured in the face by ricocheting debris. Law-enforcement officials from the FBI and Homeland Security are now scouring the massive crime scene in Linden.
A massive manhunt had been under way on Monday for the suspect, whom the FBI had considered “armed and dangerous.” Officials sent out an emergency alert to cell phones in the New Jersey and New York area to notify people about the suspect.
NBC News reports that authorities suspect Rahami is the man seen on surveillance video before the blast in Chelsea, on West 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, that injured 29 people, and at another location on West 27th Street, where an undetonated pressure-cooker device was found. Authorities say evidence links Rahami to a pipe bomb that exploded on Saturday before the start of a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and five IEDs, uncovered Sunday night, stuffed in a backpack in a garbage can near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of those devices detonated while a police robot was trying to disable it, but no one was hurt in the blast.
Police officials told NBC News that a fingerprint found on one of the unexploded devices helped law enforcement hone in on Rahami. Though the Manhattan bombs were different types of explosives than those found in New Jersey, they did share similar materials and use cell phones as the detonation device, which also tied Rahami to the multiple crime scenes, according to officials. “He certainly seemed to do virtually nothing to cover his tracks,” an official told NBC News.
Some thieves may have also unwittingly helped authorities in their search for the most wanted man in America, reports DNAinfo. On West 27th Street, where an unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found, sources say two people looking to steal the suitcase may have accidentally disabled the device and thus left key evidence intact:
The young men, who sources described as being well-dressed, opened the bag and took the bomb out, sources said, before placing the explosive into a garbage bag and walking away with the rolling suitcase.
In doing so, investigators believe they inadvertently disabled the explosive, sources said. That allowed investigators to examine the cellphone attached to the bomb intact and discover that it was connected to the family of Rahami.
Police officials have not named Rahami’s potential motive for the attack, and it is not yet clear if he had direct ties to overseas terror networks. At a press conference at NYPD headquarters after Rahami’s capture, authorities cautioned that the investigation is still in flux. But they did assure the public that, contrary to earlier reports, there is no indication that Rahami was operating as part of a larger terror cell or involved in a bigger plot. Officials said evidence suggests Rahami acted alone, and law enforcement are not actively seeking any other suspects in the bombings at this time. There’s also no apparent link between Rahami’s plans and the stabbing spree in a Minnesota mall on Saturday night.
Officials added that Rahami doesn’t appear to have been on law enforcement’s “radar” and was not on any federal or NYPD terror watch lists. He had at least one run-in with police relating to a domestic-violence incident in 2012, the investigation of which was allegedly dropped.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a press conference, said, “We have every reason to believe it was an act of terror,” though he added that there’s still “a long investigation ahead.” Over the weekend, de Blasio called the Chelsea bombing an “intentional act,” but he and NYPD officials stressed that the blast did not initially appear to be tied to international terrorism.
NYPD police commissioner James O’Neill — who was publicly sworn in on Monday after a brutal start to his new job — praised the coordinated efforts of law enforcement to apprehend Rahami. “This happened 50 hours ago,” O’Neill said of the Chelsea bombing. “And we now have our suspect in custody.”
The trail that led to Rahami heated up Sunday night after police pulled over a car on the Belt Parkway near the entrance to the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn. The New York Times reports that the men may have been associates of Rahami’s and were potentially on their way to JFK Airport. Authorities questioned them, but they were not taken into custody, contrary to previous reports. None of those men has been charged with any crime, but the information they provided helped launch the FBI raid in Elizabeth and another in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Monday morning.
In Monday’s predawn hours, the FBI and ATF raided an apartment in Elizabeth a few minutes away from where authorities found those IEDs near a local train station on Sunday night; it is believed to be Rahami’s last known address. The apartment, at Elmora and Linden avenues, sits above the First American Fried Chicken Restaurant, which was reportedly owned by the suspect’s family. Law-enforcement officials have saturated the area and also cleared out a deli, a computer store, and a beauty salon in the neighborhood, according to the Times.
The Rahami family was granted asylum to the U.S. in 1995, according to NBC News. Ahmad was likely 7 years old at the time. Rahami and his brothers worked at First American Fried Chicken, which their father, Muhammad Rahami, ran, says the New York Times. The 24-hour fast-food joint apparently got on the nerves of local residents for its rowdy clientele, and the town’s city council eventually passed an ordinance to shut the place down at 10 p.m. The Rahamis did not comply, per the Times:
Once … one of Ahmad’s older brothers got in a fight with an officer who came to shut down the restaurant. Before the case could be resolved, Mr. McDermott said, the son fled to his home country, Afghanistan.
The elder Rahami sued the city, [Elizabeth] Mayor [Christian] Bollwage said.
The Rahamis brought the lawsuit in 2011 and reportedly claimed that the city and the police were harassing them because of their ethnicity. “They’ve been monitored for code enforcement and noise complaints over the years, but we’ve never suspected anything like this,” Mayor Bollwage said about the joint.
Rahami studied for an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Middlesex County College in 2010 but never graduated. He’d often talked about his interest in refurbishing and racing Hondas; the FBI had alerted media that his possible getaway car was a blue 2003 Honda Civic with Jersey plates.
Multiple reports indicate that Rahami traveled to Afghanistan at least one time in the past few years. A federal official told the New York Times that while Rahami may have told people he was in Afghanistan, he actually visited Pakistan for three months in 2011, and took another trip to Pakistan for nearly a year.
Friends said he was a changed man when he returned to the U.S. in March 2014. He ditched his T-shirts for traditional Muslim robes, began praying in the back of his family’s store, and grew more stern. “It’s like he was a completely different person,” said Flee Jones, a childhood friend. “He got serious and completely closed off.”
It appears that unbeknownst to his friends, Rahami married while overseas. Representative Albio Sires of New Jersey told CBS New York that Rahami contacted his office from Pakistan in 2014 in an attempt to get his pregnant wife a visa. It’s unclear if she or the child ever came to the U.S.
“One story is that he had a wife in Pakistan, he was very upset that he couldn’t bring his wife back,” Governor Cuomo said. “Another theory is that he was much more upset about the lawsuit with the government where they closed down the family restaurant, which caused hardship to the entire family.”
Cuomo added that, though New York is constantly on the alert for terror activity, there was “no specific information” on any additional or new threats related to the New York and New Jersey blasts.
That hasn’t stopped the NYPD from stepping up its police presence across New York City, which is also set to host a slew of foreign dignitaries as the United Nations General Assembly gets under way. Governor Cuomo also authorized the deployment of an additional 1,000 state police and National Guard troops across the city. A rainy and gray Monday in New York also witnessed early-morning scares: Reports of a suspicious package in Union Square turned out to be a toolbox, and the NYPD also investigated, and quickly cleared, an unattended package at the J train stop in Cypress Hill, Brooklyn, reports PIX 11.
This post has been updated throughout.