Ahmad Rahami, suspect in NY and NJ bombings, charged with attempted murder
The desperate search for a 28-year-old man wanted in connection with a series of blasts that terrorized New York and New Jersey over the last three days ended Monday in a gun battle with police officers.
And Ahmad Rahami on Monday evening was charged with charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer according to the Union County, New Jersey, prosecutor.
The prosecutor's office also charged him with two second-degree counts of unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. His bail was set at $5.2 million dollars by a state judge.
See images of Ahmad Rahami
Rahami faces up to 20 years for each count of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
He was taken into custody earlier after he was shot in the leg during the 10:30 a.m. confrontation in Linden, New Jersey, law enforcement sources said.
Rahami managed to shoot one police officer in the hand and another in the bullet proof vest before he was apprehended, they said.
The injuries sustained by Rahami, who was being treated at University Hospital in Newark, and the officers did not appear to be life-threatening, officials said.
- Authorities say flip phones used on explosive devices in Seaside, New Jersey, and the Chelsea section of Manhattan were both bought at same store last year.
- Unexploded devices were also discovered blocks from the Chelsea blast and near an Elizabeth, New Jersey, train station.
- FBI agents in Brooklyn stopped "a vehicle of interest" in the investigation of the Manhattan explosion. Five occupants were detained for questioning.
- Suspect traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan within last 10 years.
- Rahami's father, Mohammad Rahami, told NBC News he had "no idea" of what his son was planning.
- The suspect was discovered sleeping in the doorway of a local bar.
"When I was at the scene, initially, he was conscious and awake," Capt. James Sarnicki of the Linden Police Department said of the suspect.
Rahami was captured after police got a call about a man sleeping in the doorway of a local bar, Sarnicki said.
When police arrived, one of the officers "tried to rouse him," Sarnicki said. "The gentleman on the ground picked up his head, and the officer saw that he had a beard and resembled the wanted person from the poster ... from the bombings."
After the officer ordered Rahami to show his hands, the suspect "pulled out a handgun and fired one shot at the officer, striking him in the abdomen," Sarnicki said. "Fortunately, the officer had a bullet-proof vest on."
The Linden cops returned fire, hitting Rahami several times, Sarnicki said.
A local business owner told NBC News he heard what he thought at first were fireworks.
"But then we took a peek and there were cops firing and the guy went down in front of the building," said the owner, who declined to give his name.
Meanwhile, President Obama reassured a nervous nation that law enforcement was on the case.
"Moments like this, I think it's important to remember what terrorists and violent extremists are trying to do," said Obama. "They are trying to hurt innocent people and create fear in all of us, to disrupt the way we live."
Obama also praised New Yorkers and New Jersey residents after their states were once again targeted by terror.
"Folks around here, they don't get scared," he said. "They're tough. they're resilient. They go about their business every single day."
Later, Obama told reporters he had spoken with — and thanked — the wounded Linden officers.
"They are going to be fine, sustained modest injuries, in good spirits," he said. "Just one more reminder of the skill and sacrifice of law enforcement officers."
Rahami was born in Afghanistan and his family was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2011, a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News. His father, Mohammad, said he had "no idea" his son was allegedly plotting a bombing campaign.
"I'm not sure what's going on, I'm not sure what's happening exactly," Mohammad Rahami said as he returned to the family's store in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Rahami is the man seen in surveillance footage taken Saturday night in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, the site of an explosion that injured 29 people, a senior law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News.
The blast was so powerful it sent a dumpster flying more than 150 feet down the sidewalk and shattered windows more than a block away. And police later found a second bomb that did not detonate a few blocks away on 27th Street.
The FBI said it does not yet know why the Chelsea neighborhood was targeted.
There is other physical evidence linking Rahimi to the pressure cooker bombs that went off or were found in New York and New Jersey, the senior law enforcement official said.
Rahami, who is a U.S. citizen, was identified as a suspect after a fingerprint was found on one of the devices that failed to detonate, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News.
They also found more information that pointed to Rahami on cell phones that were wired to the unexploded bombs, the official said.
"He certainly seemed to do virtually nothing to cover his tracks," the official says.
But the official downplayed any talk of Rahimi being part of a "cell" and said at this point have no idea whether anyone else was involved. There was no indication an ISIS cell was operating in New York City, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said at an afternoon news conference.
"There is no other individual we are looking for at this time," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at that news conference.
Nonetheless, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said officials could not rule out international terrorism.
"Today's information suggests it may be foreign related, but we'll see where it goes," Cuomo said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday.
As recently as April 2013, 28-year-old Ahmad Rahami visited Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official told NBC News Monday evening. And in the last decade, Rahami has also made several trips to neighboring Pakistan — and his older brother Mohammad, is believed to still be in Afghanistan, the official said.
Rahami was caught hours after a backpack that appeared to contain pipe bombs exploded as a police robot examined it near a New Jersey train station. That blast happened shortly before 1 a.m. ET Monday. It was the second in New Jersey since Saturday morning.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told reporters the bomb squad robot was "cutting into the device when it exploded" in his city.
Five hours later, FBI agents were spotted at the Rahami family's fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth.
While investigators prepared to question Rahami, the FBI was still grilling five people who were taken into custody after authorities stopped a "vehicle of interest" in the New York blast at about 8:45 p.m. ET Sunday near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York CIty.
None of the five people had been charged, authorities told NBC News.
Multiple senior law enforcement officials told NBC News that the suspicious device discovered Sunday night in Elizabeth looked similar in appearance to the one that exploded Saturday morning in Seaside Park, N.J.
The latest package was a backpack found by two men in a garbage can about 300 feet from the front door of a crowded pub in Elizabeth, Bollwage said.
When they saw wires and pipes, they dropped it and immediately went to police headquarters, he said.
"We do not believe those two are involved," the mayor said. "We believe they did the right thing."
Investigators analyzing possible similarities between the two devices found in Manhattan and the one that detonated in Seaside Park noted that all three apparently contained old-style mobile flip phones, according to officials familiar with the probe.
According to federal investigators, one of the factors linking the New York and New Jersey bombs was the fact that the cell phones were purchased last year at the same New Jersey discount store.
They say the flip phone from the Seaside Park, NJ device was bought in February 2015, and the phone attached to the pressure cooker bomb found on 27th Street was bought in May 2015 — both at the same Family Dollar store in Perth Amboy, N.J.
Cuomo said it was "fortunate" that no deaths occurred.
"When you see the damage, it's amazing that no one was killed, to tell you the truth. We're lucky that only 29 were injured," Cuomo said Sunday on MSNBC.