NYC Bomb Suspect Arrested After Gun Battle

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The man believed to be responsible for the explosion in Manhattan on Saturday night and an earlier bombing in New Jersey, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was taken into custody on Monday after he was wounded in a gunfight with the police, law enforcement officials said.


The dramatic episode on a rain-soaked street in Linden, N.J., came after the police issued a cellphone alert to millions of residents in the area telling them to be on the lookout for Mr. Rahami, 28, who was described as “armed and dangerous.”

The showdown started around 10:30 a.m. when a resident spotted a man sleeping in the doorway of a bar, officials said.

Capt. James Sarnicki of the Linden Police Department told reporters that an officer approached the man, later identified as Mr. Rahami, and when he woke him, he saw that he had a beard resembling that of the man on the Wanted poster.

The officer ordered Mr. Rahami to show hands, Captain Sarnicki said, but instead, he pulled out a handgun.

He shot the officer in the abdomen, Captain Sarnicki said, but the bullet struck his vest.

“The officer returned fire,” he said. Mr. Rahami fled, “indiscriminantly firing his weapon at passing vehicles.”

Other officers joined the chase, and Mr. Rahami was shot multiple times. At least one other officer was injured during the confrontation.

Shortly after 11 a.m., Mr. Rahami was in custody, seen by witnesses splayed out beside the street, hands cuffed behind his back and his shirt rolled up, officers standing over him with their weapons drawn.

Mr. Rahami, blood pouring from a wound in his shoulder and splattered on his face, was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to University Hospital in Newark.

Mr. Rahami was identified by officials on surveillance video planting the bombs in Chelsea, both the device that exploded on 23rd Street and another that did not detonate a few blocks away. His fingerprint was also found on one of the pressure cooker bombs in Manhattan, according to a senior law enforcement official. Mr. Rahami was also connected to a bombing that took place earlier on Saturday on the Jersey Shore.

The police believe that he was also responsible for a backpack full of pipe bombs found in Elizabeth, N.J., late Sunday.

President Obama, who arrived in New York on Monday to join other world leaders for the annual meeting of the United Nations’ General Assembly, made brief remarks on the attack.

“Folks around here, they don’t get scared,” Mr. Obama said. “They are tough, they are resilient, they go about their business every single day.”

He also warned of the dangers of exaggerating threats or spreading rumors.

On presidential campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump both used the events to emphasize their different approaches to combating terrorism.

Mr. Trump suggested that law enforcement officials were being stymied in their efforts by political correctness while Mrs. Clinton said his comments were both uninformed and inflammatory.

Even as the candidates skirmished, investigators were trying to learn about Mr. Rahami’s life and possible motivation.

Mr. Rahami was born on Jan. 23, 1988, in Afghanistan. He was described as a naturalized citizen who had been living with his family in Elizabeth, not far from where he was arrested. Neighbors said that several years ago Mr. Rahami traveled to his homeland and when he returned, he showed signs of radicalization. The significance of the visit was not immediately clear. It was not known whether he had any links to an overseas terror organization, or whether he had been inspired by such organizations.

At a news conference on Monday afternoon, law enforcement officials declined to offer details about the investigation.

Assistant Director William F. Sweeney, who heads the F.B.I.’s New York office, said investigators were working “to completely understand his social network.”

“I have no indication that there is a cell operating in the area or in the city,” he said.

The city’s police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, had directed the entire patrol force of the New York Police Department — 36,000 officers — to step up their vigilance and be on the alert for Mr. Rahami.

Dozens of officers and federal agents zeroed in on locations in New Jersey. At the same time, more than 1,000 officers from the city police force’s Critical Response Command and Emergency Service Unit were working to secure New York City landmarks, commuter hubs and other sensitive sites.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a news conference, said that even though Mr. Rahami was in custody, New Yorkers should remain vigilant.

The authorities began to focus on Mr. Rahami on Sunday as they reviewed hours of surveillance video taken from the Chelsea area.

On Sunday evening, increasingly confident that Mr. Rahami might be involved in the bombing, the police rushed to act when they saw a car leaving an address associated with him.

The car was pulled over on the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn. Five people inside were questioned and later released.

Later on Sunday night, the police got a report of a suspicious package near a train station in Elizabeth, N.J.

The F.B.I., called in to investigate, dispatched a pair of robots to examine the bag and determined that it held five bombs, some of which were pipe bombs.

Around 12:30 a.m., the robots tried to clip a wire to disarm one bomb and accidentally detonated it. No one was injured.

The location of the bag was not far from where the Rahami family ran a restaurant, and before dawn federal agents and local police officers were swarming a residential neighborhood of low-rise apartment buildings, multiple-family homes and small businesses.

They searched the restaurant, First American Fried Chicken, and addresses where he was reported to have spent time.

The police also closed and evacuated La Bottega Dei Sapori deli and Sonia’s Beauty, a salon to the left of the restaurant, as well as HR Computer and Communication Services Inc.

Mayor J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth, speaking at a news conference on Monday morning, described how the Rahami family had issues with the city in the past.

Mr. Rahami’s father, Mohammad, opened the restaurant about a decade ago and employed his sons, the mayor said.

It was open 24 hours a day, but neighbors complained about rowdy crowds that would gather at the place, often after midnight.

Responding to the complaints, the City Council passed an ordinance that would force the restaurant to close late at night, the mayor said.

“The City Council voted to shut it down at 10 p.m.,” he said. “They kept getting complaints from neighbors, it was a distress to people in the neighborhood.”

The Rahamis did not comply, according to neighbors.

On one occasion when the police came to force the restaurant to close, one of Mr. Rahami’s older brothers got in a fight with a police officer and was arrested. Before the case could be resolved, a restaurant patron said, the son fled to his home country, Afghanistan.

Even as the police scoured the area near the Rahami restaurant, the suspect was seeking shelter from the morning rain under a doorway of a bar in the neighboring town of Linden.

Diego Jeronimo, 36, the owner of a store near where the gun battle unfolded, said he opened his front door and saw a police car parked lengthwise across the street, an officer with his back to him with his gun drawn using the car as a shield. He heard around five shots.

“Then it calmed down a little bit, then we hear seven shots, but they were more distant,” down the block, he said.

Shawn Styles, 30, who works at Linden Auto Body next door, said he saw numerous police vehicles whiz down the avenue.

“Then multiple, multiple shots,” he said.

New York Times

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