The federally convicted bomber who detonated explosive devices in New York City and a Jersey Shore town over the course of a single weekend in 2016 has been convicted on all state charges filed against him in connection with a fierce shootout with five Linden Police Department officers that ended with his arrest, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo announced Tuesday.
Following a three-week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge John M. Deitch and several hours of jury deliberations spread over two days, 31-year-old Ahmad K. Rahami, a.k.a. Ahmad K. Rahimi, of Elizabeth, was found guilty of five counts of first-degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, multiple counts of second-, third-, and fourth-degree aggravated assault, two second-degree weapons offenses, and fourth-degree possession of a high-capacity magazine.
A little before 10:30 a.m. on the morning of Monday, September 19, 2016, the owner of Merdie’s Tavern, located on East Elizabeth Avenue in Linden, called police to report that an unknown male later identified as Rahami was sleeping in the vestibule directly outside the bar’s front door, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Albert J. Cernadas, Jr., Meghan Tomlinson, and Milton Leibowitz, who prosecuted the case.
The first responding officer, a uniformed Linden police patrolman, arrived at the scene moments later and recognized Rahami as the person federal authorities had issued a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) advisory for earlier that same morning, prompting the officer to radio for backup as he began questioning him.
At that time, ignoring repeated orders to stop what he was doing and show his hands, Rahami produced a 9mm handgun and shot the officer in the torso, striking him in his protective vest. Additional patrol officers responding to the scene engaged Rahami in an exchange of gunfire that ended when he was shot multiple times outside of an auto repair shop on East Elizabeth Avenue, several blocks west of where he was initially approached.
Rahami’s handgun was recovered at the scene, after which he was immediately transported to a local hospital for emergency treatment, as were the police officer who was shot in his bulletproof vest and a second officer who was struck in the head by a fragment of a bullet fired through his vehicle’s windshield by Rahami. Bail was set at $5.2 million by Union County Superior Court Judge Regina Caulfield.
A Union County grand jury returned a 30-count indictment against Rahami in November 2016, after which the prosecution of his federal crimes began. On Monday, October 16, 2017, following a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman, Rahami was convicted on all eight federal charges filed against him, including using a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destroying property by means of fire or explosive, attempting to destroy property by means of fire or explosive, interstate transportation and receipt of explosives, and two counts of using of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Those charges were connected to Rahami’s activities on the weekend before his arrest. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal prosecutors who tried the case:
Early on Saturday, September 17, 2016, Rahami planted improvised explosive devices at three locations: one in Seaside Heights (Ocean County), and the other two on West 23rd Street and West 27th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. that night, the West 23rd Street bomb, containing a high-explosive main charge and thousands of ball bearings, detonated, causing injuries to more than 30 people and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage across a 650-foot crime scene. Victims’ injuries included, among others, lacerations to the face, abdomen, legs, and arms caused by flying glass; metal shrapnel and fragmentation embedded in skin and bone; and various head injuries. The explosion propelled a more-than-100-pound dumpster – which was introduced as an exhibit during the federal trial – more than 120 feet, and shattered windows as far as approximately 400 feet from the blast site (and, vertically, more than three stories high).
Shortly after that bomb detonated, a civilian identified the West 27th Street bomb and promptly called 911. The device was rendered safe prior to detonation.
Earlier that same day, shortly after 9:30 a.m., the Seaside Heights bomb detonated along the route for the Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K race. No one was injured as a result. The start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., was delayed, but had the race started on time, the bomb likely would have detonated as runners were passing.
The next day, at approximately 8:40 p.m. on Sunday, September 18, 2016, six additional improvised explosive devices that Rahami had assembled were found inside a backpack located at the entrance to the NJ Transit rail station in downtown Elizabeth.
Rahami was arrested the next morning, a little less than three miles from the rail station. All five responding Linden police officers testified at trial, when portions of their body-worn and dashboard video camera footage were also shown to the jury.
On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, Rahami was federally sentenced to a term of life in prison without the chance of parole. A sentencing hearing on the state charges for which he was just convicted has been tentatively scheduled for Friday, November 15, at which time he will face a sentence of up to life in state prison.
“The degree of valor exhibited by these five responding Linden Police Department officers on a rainy Monday morning a little more than three years ago simply cannot be overstated. They rushed into an extraordinarily dangerous and unpredictable scenario without a moment’s hesitation, and with only the protection of the public and the apprehension of a violent criminal in mind,” Prosecutor Ruotolo said. “Today’s verdict is a fitting conclusion to this case, and will stand as a permanent testament to their dedication and bravery.”
“Today’s verdict, while not unexpected, is a much-anticipated conclusion to this saga, and we are grateful to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office for their resolve in holding the defendant accountable for trying to kill these heroes,” Linden Police Chief David Hart said. “Their actions on that day will forever inspire us, and this conviction sends a clear message that those who use fear and intimidation to disrupt our way of life will be stopped and held accountable.”
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the Linden Police Department would like to thank their numerous local, county, state, and federal law enforcement partners who directly participated in or assisted with the state and federal investigations and prosecutions of this defendant. They include members of:
• The U.S. Department of Justice
• The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
• The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey
• The FBI and its New York and Newark Field Offices
• The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces
• The New York City Police Department
• The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General
• The New Jersey State Police
• The New York State Police
• The Union County Police Department
• The Union County Sheriff’s Office
• The Elizabeth Police Department