Man arrested in New York and New Jersey bombings after a shootout with police

%28Gina+Ferazzi%2FLos+Angeles+Times%2FTNS%29+

TNS

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By Barbara Demick, Del Quentin Wilber and Vera Haller | Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK — Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey, has been captured after a shootout with police, a U.S. official said.

The shootout took place in Linden, N.J., a town next to Elizabeth, N.J. where Rahami lived with his family, Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said.

Two officers were shot, one in the vest and one in the hand, Bollwage said. He did not have more details about their condition.

Advertisement

“They have apprehended him,” Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said in a brief interview with a WABC-TV reporter. “He has been injured. They shot him.”

WABC-TV footage from a street in Linden showed a man resembling Rahami, strapped to a gurney and with blood on his right sleeve, being loaded into an ambulance. His eyes were open and he moved his head back and forth.

Investigators put out an unprecedented emergency alert to millions of cellphones Monday morning seeking information about Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan.

Federal agents identified Rahami using security footage from the Manhattan location where one bomb exploded and another unexploded device was discovered, authorities said. They also recovered at least one fingerprint from the unexploded bomb that they linked to Rahami, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

Five people — either relatives or associates of Rahami — were questioned in New York, the official said.

Police searched an apartment in Elizabeth on Monday morning where the suspect was reported to live with his father. The apartment is above a chicken restaurant that was run by the two men, New Jersey television reported.

Their restaurant, First American Fried Chicken, has typically American signage out front advertising burgers, ribs, subs, ice cream and seafood. The phone at the restaurant this morning was answered by a machine that said to leave a message.

Ahmad Rahami was one of several sons of the owner. He could usually be found in the back, cooking up the chicken and burgers, a neighbor said.

“The older man, the dad, was a very nice guy. He was a well-known figure in the community and people respected him,” said Jonas Nunez, 58, who lives two doors away and runs a martial arts studio nearby. “Sometimes he would complain that he had to work seven days a week to support a large family.”

The Rahami family members were hard-working immigrants, pious, friendly and popular for their crispy fried chicken, Nunez said. The restaurant stayed open until 2 a.m., causing some complaints from the neighbors and frequent citations from the municipality.

At one point, family members sued the town, saying that they were being targeted as Muslims.

“There were young kids who would hang out and play music. There were cars stopping by, people leaving clubs to get a bite to eat,” Nunez said. “I wouldn’t say that it was anti-Muslim. It was more anti-neighborhood noise.”

The family were known to be devout Muslims and would break off to pray in back of the shop.

“He would say, time to go, I’ve got to pray,” Nunez said.

Nunez said the family was respected for their piety in a neighborhood with a large immigrant population, many of them Colombians, Ecuadorians and Dominicans. Nunez said Ahmad and his brothers were all chubby, and that one of the younger sons, Mohammed, had been a kick-boxing student at his school across the street.

“They were nice kids, but you never know what poison the younger generation will fall prey to,” Nunez said.

Investigators arrived in the neighborhood at about 4 a.m. Monday, surrounding the house and cordoning off the area. Helicopters circled overhead.

Nunez said investigators were removing boxes from the house and had taken away three compact cars. The FBI has not yet determined the motivation for the attacks but have grown increasingly confident that the bombings were perpetrated by the same person or group of people, the U.S. law enforcement official said.

The official noted that the devices in both shared common characteristics, such as flip phones for timing detonators and the same type of explosive, tannerite.

The FBI does not believe that a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall on Saturday, which was later claimed by Islamic State, is connected to the bombings.

More bombs were discovered overnight in a backpack left in a train station in Elizabeth. Police robots accidentally detonated one of the five bombs inside the backpack but there were no injuries.

The new information led those who were initially cautious to suggest that these could be acts of international terrorism.

“Today’s information suggests it may be foreign-related, but we’ll see where it goes,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday morning.

Investigators do not believe that the bomber or bombers received extensive training to make the relatively crude devices for several reasons. For one thing, the official said, less than half of the devices exploded or partially exploded.

The official said that the bomber placed the device in the Chelsea neighborhood inside a strong steel dumpster, which directed the blast upward. That decision likely saved lives and reduced the severity and number of those injured in the blast.

Someone trained in how to place explosives — and not just learning how to craft them from the internet — would not likely have chosen such a location, the official said.

Shortly before 8 a.m., cellphones around New York and New Jersey blared with the emergency alert asking people to look out for Rahami. He was reported to be 5 foot 6 and 200 pounds, “armed and dangerous,” as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio put it.

On Saturday, there were two explosions, one planted in a dumpster in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and another near the boardwalk in the resort town of Seaside Heights, N.J., where a Marine Corps race was about to begin.

Twenty-nine people were slightly injured in the New York bombing.

Another bomb was discovered nearby in New York before it could explode. The bombings come at a sensitive time in New York, with the U.N. General Assembly set to begin Tuesday.

President Barack Obama and many other heads of state are in the city.

The bombs in New Jersey were discovered Sunday night when two men walked out of a restaurant near the train station and saw a backpack sitting on top of a municipal garbage bag. When opened, they saw pipes and wires and called police.

Detectives found five bombs inside the backpack. A robot trying to defuse the bomb accidentally cut the wrong wire, leading to the explosion.

Bollwage said it was unclear whether the suspect was targeting the train station or had left the backpack behind to get rid of the evidence.

“I can imagine that if all five of them went off at the same time, that the loss of life could have been enormous if there was an event going on,” Bollwage said.

Elizabeth, N.J., is a working-class town about 15 miles from New York City near Newark airport and is home to many immigrants.

Times staff writers Demick and Wilber reported from New York and Washington, D.C., respectively. Special correspondent Haller reported from Elizabeth, N.J. Times staff writer Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

___

(c) 2016 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Advertisement