Ahmad Khan Rahami, the 28-year-old suspect in the Manhattan and Seaside Park bombings this weekend, lived with his family above their chicken restaurant in New Jersey that was a flashpoint for neighbors and who had a “domestic incident” in his background that was later recanted.
Rahami — a US citizen who was born on January 23 1988 in Afghanistan — was arrested Monday after an alleged shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey that left two officers injured. He was spotted sleeping in the doorway of a bar when someone noticed him hours after officials sent out a regional alert to cell phone users with his description.
The first blast happened in a trash can during a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey. No one was injured because the race start had been delayed. On Saturday evening, an explosion in the Manhattan’s busy Chelsea neighborhood injured 29, and a pressure cooker device was later found four blocks away. On Sunday evening, people spotted more devices in a trash can on a New Jersey Transit stop in Elizabeth, NJ — police accidentally detonated those with no injures.
Prosecutors said he likely faces state charges in New Jersey and federal charges in Manhattan.
“We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, adding there’s “no other individual we’re looking for.” The FBI said there was “nothing to indicate he was on our radar.”
“I do not have information yet…on a path of radicalization,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney said.
Ahmad Khan Rahami being taken into custody on Monday, September 19, 2016.
Ed Murray / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Rahami’s most recent known address is in Elizabeth, New Jersey where he lived with his family above their restaurant, First American Fried Chicken. Rahami worked at the family-owned restaurant. The residence was raided by police on Monday and possible evidence was removed.
A neighbor who didn’t want to be identified told BuzzFeed News Monday that they saw the family hanging outside the restaurant often. “They kept to themselves. They never really talked to anyone. The dad was in religious clothing, but the three sons weren't.”
The restaurant was a source of tension in the community that led to clashes between the Rahamis and neighbors and police that apparently stretched on for years.
In a federal lawsuit filed in 2011 by Rahami’s brother and father, the family alleged years of anti-Muslim harassment. The accused bomber is not named in the lawsuit but he reportedly worked there as well.
New Jersey State Police
According to the complaint, Mohammad Rahami, the father of the alleged bomber, and two of his sons, Mohammad K. Rahami, Jr. and Mohammad Q. Rahami opened First American Fried Chicken in 2002 at 104 Elmora Avenue.
The lawsuit names the City of Elizabeth, the police department and several officers, and a neighbor and local business owner alleging civil rights violations connected to the ongoing dispute centered on the restaurant’s business hours.
The dispute is centered around an ordinance adopted by Elizabeth in 2003 that “generally barred the operation of retail establishments between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., if located below a residential unit in a residential or commercial zone.”
The ordinance allowed for exceptions for establishment that “devote ninety-five percent of [their] business to the preparation and service of meals or food for consumption inside the retail establishment.”
On Monday, the New York Times reported that Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage confirmed that the city forced the Rahami’s restaurant to close nightly at 10 pm.
“The City Council voted to shut it down at 10,” Mr. Bollwage told the Times. “They kept getting complaints from neighbors; it was a distress to people in the neighborhood.” A call placed to First American Fried Chicken on Monday morning went straight to voicemail.
Ahmad Khan Rahami was reportedly injured during a shootout with police Monday before being captured.
Ed Murray / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Starting in 2008, the family says it began to receive citations and summonses for violating a local ordinance that required certain businesses to close by 10 p.m. The family claims that it resolved the legal issue involving the ordinance on September 25, 2008 where a ticket was dismissed.
According to the lawsuit, police and a local business owner “embarked on a course of conduct to harass, humiliate, intimidate, retaliate against force [the Rahamis] to close their business by 10 p.m.” from April 28, 2009 through February 2011.
The Rahamis claimed that on one occasion, on April 26, 2009, several police officers showed up at the restaurant around 10 p.m. and told the family that they had to close the establishment. One of the Rahami sons showed the police court papers that explained that the restaurant was allowed to operate past 10 p.m. The officer responded “I don’t believe this” and issued the family a ticket. On other occasions, police told the Rahamis to close the business and made comments “about crime in the neighborhood” and said “the restaurant presented a danger to the community and that “there is a lot of crime around here,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit also claimed that a neighbor, James Dean McDermott, the owner of nearby Dean Relay Press And Radio, walked into the restaurant and told the family “Muslims should not have businesses here” and “Muslims are trouble.” When the Rahamis told McDermott they were from Afghanistan, he allegedly responded that “Muslims don’t belong here.”
On one occasion, when police issued a summons to the family, the younger Rahamis complained about “selective enforcement in the neighborhood” and attempted to record a conversation with police on a hand-held device. Both sons were arrested, and one of the sons, Mohammad K. Rahami, Jr., was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing the police. Rahami later pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge, according to the lawsuit.
On June 24, 2009, the Rahamis attempted to file an internal affairs complaint with the City of Elizabeth, alleging mistreatment, harassment, and abuse of power. The lawsuit claims that a police lieutenant refused to accept their complaint. Two days later, on June 26, 2009, the restaurant received another summons for violating the 10 p.m. ordinance. The family said that the June 26, 2009 ticket was dismissed.
On September 28, 2009, the elder Rahami received two tickets regarding two harassment claims by McDermott made on May 26, 2007 and July 20, 2007. Those harassment claims were dismissed in 2011, according to the lawsuit.
In a separate case in state court, Mohammad K. Rahami, Jr. pled guilty to one complaint, admitting that on June 15, 2009, the restaurant was “open past 10:00 p.m.” and it had “served more than six percent of takeout business” in violation of rule that 95% of the meals must be served inside the restaurant. Rahami was fined $200 plus court costs in the case.
According to the legal record, the civil lawsuit is still ongoing and was stayed in 2015 pending the resolution of additional legal matters involving the restaurant.
Talal Ansari contributed to this report.
New Jersey State Police