By Brenda Flanagan
Police took 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami into custody in Linden following his 48 hours of alleged frenzied activity across two states, including three separate bomb events. After the FBI blasted his face on a wanted poster across social media this morning, local cops improbably found him dozing in the doorway of a neighborhood bar.
“The officer then went to rouse him and when the gentleman raised his head, the officer saw that he had a beard and resembled the person that was put out on the wanted poster. At that point the officer ordered him to show his hands and the man went to the side of his body, withdrew a handgun and fired one shot at the officer,” said Linden Police Capt. James Sarnicki.
“And I heard two pops. And then a few seconds later I heard more pops. Then I started seeing all the police cars, under covers all flying around,” said Mail Carrier Robert Varady.
Officials said Rahami tried to escape, shooting as he ran, as police returned fire.
“Running, yes, firing erratically at others. He grazed one of our other police officers,” said Linden Mayor Derek Armstead.
“He was described as armed and dangerous, and as we see from this incident this morning, that’s exactly what it was,” Sarnicki said. “We’re very lucky. We had two officers shot, fortunately both of them are going to be OK and obviously this suspect was bent on harming people.”
Police reportedly shot Rahami in the arm and leg and transported him to University Hospital in Newark, ending the manhunt. FBI reportedly identified him as a suspect in Saturday’s Seaside Park bombing, the bomb explosion that injured more than 25 people in Chelsea and last night’s incident in Elizabeth where a backpack containing five connected bombs was discovered, near the train station, by two homeless men.
“They probably saved hundreds of lives by walking over to Elizabeth police headquarters. They were also walking on the side of angels. They picked up that backpack. That bomb package — we speculate — was being thrown away as opposed to being set for further harm or further damage to any individual,” said Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. Why throw it away? “Probably to get rid of the evidence.”
The bomb squad’s robot detonated one of the five Elizabeth devices — no injuries. The suspect knew the heat was on. Police arrested five men on the Verrazano Bridge last night. Details in the bomb construction, and possible fingerprints, allegedly led the FBI to Ahmad Rahami and brought agents to investigate the Rahami family’s chicken restaurant and residence in Elizabeth.
“I was made aware sometime yesterday afternoon that the investigation in Chelsea, N.Y. was coming through Elizabeth,” Bollwage said.
Rahami was a naturalized citizen, originally from Afghanistan. The family tangled with the city over curfew hours at its restaurant. A childhood friend was stunned to see reports.
“They showed the picture of him. As soon as I saw it I said, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ I would never expect him to be this type of person,” said Rahami’s childhood friend Flee Jones. “Because I’ve never seen him angry. As a kid never seen him argue or get angry. He was always nice.”
Outside University Hospital in Newark, NJTV News Correspondent Brenda Flanagan spoke with Anchor Mary Alice Williams about the current status of those involved in the investigation.
Flanagan: We’re at University Hospital where Rahami was transported after the gun battle. He was reportedly undergoing surgery for his wounds. Police say he is expected to make a full recovery, as are the two officers. One was hit in the bulletproof vest, another one was grazed in the head. Still, there is an unanswered question as to why any of this occurred.
Williams: Why indeed. Is there evidence that Rahami had been radicalized at all?
Flanagan: What we do know is that he was born in Afghanistan and reportedly had returned there a few years ago. When I was speaking to his childhood friend, Flee Jones, he told me that when Rahami returned from Afghanistan he was a changed man. He said that suddenly he was very deeply religious. That he was a very serious, very mature and very focused man. That is going to be the subject of an ongoing investigation now as the FBI try to track down his social network and see where it leads.