LINDEN, NJ — After a tense few days in the Tri State Area, on Monday, Sept. 19, police arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who was wanted in connection with a series of bombings that occurred in New York and New Jersey.
Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan; his last known address was in Elizabeth. He was spotted sleeping in the doorway of a Linden bar the morning of Sept. 19. The owner of Merdie’s Tavern said he had been watching CNN and, upon recognizing the suspect, called the police.
As police approached, Rahami opened fire on the officers and tried to escape. Rahami and the two responding officers were injured in a dramatic shootout in the street, and Linden police subsequently took the bombing suspect into custody. He was flown to University Hospital in Newark, where he was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
The events began the morning of Saturday, Sept. 17, in Seaside Park, where a pipe bomb exploded inside a garbage can along the route of a 5K Marine Corps charity race in the quiet Ocean County beach town. Two additional pipe bombs were discovered, undetonated.
A second bomb, this one placed under a Dumpster, went off in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, injuring 29 people. An unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found inside a trash can by police several blocks away. On Sunday, Sept. 18, a backpack containing multiple devices was found inside a trash can near the Elizabeth Train Station; one device detonated as police were attempting to disarm it. There were no injuries reported in the New Jersey explosions.
According to reports, a traffic stop of five people on the Belt Parkway in New York led to searches and interviews in Elizabeth, where the backpack full of explosives had been found.
On Monday, Sept. 19, FBI agents searched Rahami’s apartment in Elizabeth, located above the First American Fried Chicken restaurant owned by his family.
The restaurant has been at the center of a dispute between Rahami’s family and the city of Elizabeth. According to published reports, the restaurant was kept open 24 hours a day until residents in the area complained to city officials. An ordinance was eventually passed, barring the restaurant from staying open all night. The owners subsequently sued the city, a lawsuit that is allegedly pending.
The Linden Police Department released a statement to the media Sept. 19 regarding
the ongoing investigation, that read: “The Union County Prosecutor’s Office will be handling all subsequent media inquiries on the incident of Sept. 19 in the city of Linden involving the shooting of Mr. Rahmani. The injured officers will not be speaking to the media due to the continuing criminal investigation.”
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead spoke to LocalSource just hours after Rahami was apprehended. “We’re grateful that none of our police officers were seriously injured and that they were all able to return home to their families,” Armstead said in a phone call. “A little bit of police work, a little bit of luck and a little bit of help from God made this all possible.”
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office released the following statement Sept. 20 on behalf of the Linden Police Department. “We would like to sincerely thank all of those voicing concern,” reads the statement. “The officer who was struck by gunfire in his protective vest did not suffer serious injury and was discharged from a local hospital last night. The other injured officer, who was struck in the head by a bullet fragment, was kept in the hospital overnight for observation and is expected to be discharged today.
We would also like to ask that the media please respect the privacy of these officers and their families as they continue to recover at home. The entire law enforcement community here in Union County is deeply touched by the immense outpouring of support from across the country for the efforts of all five responding officers, who exhibited tremendous courage in an extremely volatile situation.”
Rahami has been charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, Union County Prosecutor Grace Park announced Monday, Sept. 19.
Convictions on first-degree criminal charges are commonly individually punishable by 10 to 20 years in state prison, while second-degree charges typically result in terms of five to 10 years.
Bail for Rahami was set at $5.2 million by state Superior Court Judge Regina Caulfield.