By David Cruz
It started just after 9:30 on a sunny Saturday morning in the small Jersey Shore town of Seaside Park when an explosive device went off at D Street and Ocean Avenue, along what would’ve been the course of a charity 5K run. The blast breaking the peace of a quiet neighborhood.
“We heard a big boom and when we went outside about five minutes later, we saw what had happened,” said Seaside Park resident Millie Young.
“Never heard anything like it so we ran outside but everybody did and then we ran to the corner and we saw the smoking container,” said Marilyn Casey of Seaside Park.
“An explosion had occurred in a trash can along the raceway. There were no reported injuries. There were no reported deaths as a result of that explosion. We are working side by side with our law enforcement partners from the federal, state and local officials and we’re working together to conduct a thorough investigation to find out who is responsible at this time,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Newark Division Brad Cohen.
With very little damage and very little details of a plot of any kind, there was a collective sigh of relief, until later that day, around 8:30 on 23rd Street in the Chelsea section of Manhattan when another device went off, this one causing more damage and injuring two dozen bystanders, none seriously. A second device — what appeared to be a pressure cooker wrapped in duct tape — was found nearby, still intact, disarmed — police think — by an individual who kept the suitcase and left the device.
“You set off two bombs in New York City, Charlie, that’s terrorism. It’s with an intent to cause damage and danger and intimidate a civilian population. That by definition is terrorism,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
As the investigation into the New York incident proceeded — now with authorities discounting the coincidence factor — the scene switched to Elizabeth, New Jersey, Midtown, Sunday night, where another suspicious device found by passersby drew a major police response.
“So about 9:30 this evening two gentlemen were walking by a garbage can here on the corner of North Broad Street and Julian Place. They saw a backpack and they thought in that backpack may be something of value. They took the backpack out of the garbage can, walked under what we call the arch, the railroad trestle, saw an SUV, opened the package behind the SUV, at which time they saw wires and a pipe. They dropped the package, walked over around the corner and into Elizabeth police headquarters,” said Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage.
Police found a bag containing up to five improvised explosive devices, and, in an attempt to disarm one of the devices with a bomb robot, instead set it off, just before 1 a.m., rattling onlookers and news crews nearby. By this time, authorities were already zeroing in on a suspect, widely texting a description and photo of Ahmad Khan Rahami, intensifying the manhunt that ended this morning with a shootout in Linden.
David Cruz spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams and Correspondent Michael Hill about the governor’s response to the incident.
Williams: David, you were with Gov. Christie at a town hall on school funding this morning. He’d not spoken with the state press corps much over the weekend if at all. Did he today?
Cruz: He in fact did not speak to the press today. He did at this event in Whippany today, he did talk about the events of this past weekend. He said that he knew all along that the events in Chelsea and Elizabeth and in Seaside Park were all related. He said that it’s time to be vigilant and that it is time to give the police the authority that they need to fight terrorism. But he did not take any questions and that really was a lot of the speculation especially on Saturday when we waited over an hour and a half for a press conference where we were expecting, according to some folks who told us that the governor was going to come. The governor never showed. He hasn’t had any press conferences today. He said he’s not a guy who likes to go on TV every 15 minutes and give an update which had a lot of us scratching our head because this is a guy who made his political bones as a crisis manager. So, maybe stuff that’s happening elsewhere around the state had a lot to do with the governor not dealing with this issue because he might have to take questions on other stuff that’s happening around the state today.
Hill: David, I would say this seems uncharacteristic for any governor though when you have such a high profile incident as this and then this arrest that takes place in this morning and the governor is offering no comment, not even a written statement?
Cruz: It was very odd. He was on some national broadcasts but on those national broadcasts, a lot of this stuff hadn’t yet happened. The stuff in Chelsea had not happened and certainly not the stuff in Elizabeth. So, it is kind of odd. And I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of days.
Hill: David Cruz for us, thank you, David.
Cruz: All right.