Two Men Who Found Elizabeth Explosives Speak Out

Right now Ahmad Rahami is still hospitalized, having been treated for bullet wounds sustained in his shootout with Linden police officers. NJTV News Correspondent Brenda Flanagan is standing by at University Hospital in Newark.

Mary Alice, we’re at University Hospital and as you point out, Ahmad Rahami is still here. FBI sources say he is unconscious, that he suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He has gone through multiple surgeries. He has not yet been read his Miranda rights. However, his defense attorneys have asked the federal magistrate to set his first court appearance here at the hospital.

In other developments, the FBI says it wants to question two men who were caught on surveillance tape in Chelsea on 27th Street. The tape shows that they reached into a duffel bag and removed the second unexploded bomb — the pressure cooker bomb — and apparently took the bag and left that bomb behind. The FBI wants to talk to those two men.

In the meantime, two other men also found another bag with unexploded bombs inside, but their reaction was completely different. This was in Elizabeth and here is their story:

After years spent sleeping in abandoned buildings, 50-year-old Lee Parker happily spent last night in an Elizabeth hotel — all bills paid by grateful advocates. He’s modest.

“I’m just an average guy trying to do the right thing,” he said.

But listen to the un-average story Parker and his pal, Ivan White, have to tell. Sunday evening — as the two strolled past the Elizabeth train station — they saw a backpack sitting discarded atop a garbage can. Parker needed a backpack. But this one felt heavy when he picked it up.

“So when I reached into the backpack, I’m thinking these are nice candles, but nice decorated candles don’t have wires hanging out,” Parker said.

“He goes, ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of this? What is this? What is this?’ And I looked at it and by this time we were walking with the backpack in our hand. And I look in the backpack and I said, ‘Oh, dear.’ I put the backpack down. I took another look again and said, ‘We got to go to a police station right now.’ And Lee goes, ‘Why do we need to go to a police station?’ I said, ‘Because this is a bomb,'” White said.

Police looked inside the bag, discovered five pipe bombs tied together and called the Union County Bomb Squad, which sent in a robot. As the two men stood by watching, boom!

“That could’ve been me but instead it was the robot. Thank God that it was the robot and not me. Or anyone else, for that matter,” Parker said.

“We were close enough where the car that we were leaning on shook. I shudder to think of the mayhem and carnage that would have happened if we hadn’t done what we done, saw what we saw and did what we did,” White said.

“A lot of people wanted to meet these heroes. A lot of people wanted to make sure that they were being taken care of,” said Norma Bowe.

Bowe’s with Be The Change NJ. She says White — a Navy veteran — isn’t homeless, but Parker needs a place to live, a job and food. Last night, they got to work.

“And we took Lee out for steak and garlic shrimp and chocolate cake. You know, he sees himself as an ordinary person doing the right thing. And I think we have a very negative view about homelessness. We don’t understand it. People have judgment and bias about it. And I don’t know how many people would have been as courageous as Lee and Ivan on Sunday night,” Bowe said.

In fact, the two men are now local celebrities, getting handshakes and thanks from Elizabeth residents. There’s even a GoFundMe page.

“We thought it was a good thing that he did. I don’t know if I’d have done it, but I’m glad somebody did,” said Cynthia Bynes-Janes, Union County employee.

This morning, Bowe took Parker shopping for groceries. He hadn’t been grocery shopping in maybe a year. And the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless helped him fill out an application for an affordable apartment.

“He’s a frequent visitor here to pick up a sandwich or bread. We serve a significant number of homeless people who come here to get food each day. They live on sandwiches that we give away,” said Linda Flores, executive director of the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless.

Parker’s an unemployed forklift operator.

“We’re all just a paycheck away. But the beautiful thing is, we got lovely people that reached out and touched lives,” he said.

The obvious irony here is that the glare of the explosions has served to unmask a suspected terrorist among us. But it’s also shone a light on an ongoing problem of homelessness in our communities.