LINDEN — A suspect in New York-area bombings was charged Monday with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after he was captured in a bloody shootout on a New Jersey street.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, and two Linden police officers were wounded in the gunfight — hours after authorities found more explosives at a New Jersey train station, raided an apartment nearby, issued a wanted poster and began to link a blast Saturday in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood that injured 29 with other bombs.
Authorities were led to Rahami by a fingerprint found on an unexploded device near the Chelsea blast, a federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY on Monday.
The intense manhunt came to a swift conclusion after Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, was found sleeping in the doorway of a bar, Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said. Rahami shot the responding officer – who was wearing a protective vest – in the abdomen, Armstead said.
Rahami then began shooting “indiscriminately” along Elizabeth Avenue, police said, and another officer was injured in the hand. More officers joined the gunbattle, and Rahami was shot in the leg and arm before being taken into custody, police Capt. James Sarnicki said.
Union County Prosecutor Grace Park said Rahami underwent surgery on his leg. She said the injuries to the officers were not critical.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Rahami was the sole suspect so far.
"There is no other individual we are looking for right now," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the bombing investigation. "We have reason to believe this was an act of terror."
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The FBI wanted poster, issued hours before the arrest, warned that Rahami "should be considered armed and dangerous."
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said he believed Rahami would be charged with shooting the police officers Monday in Linden. As far as bomb-related charges, “we’re going to take a lot of care, and a lot of time’’ before proceeding to court. FBI Special Agent William Sweeney said there was no indication that Rahami was part of a terror cell.
Rahami's last known address was listed in neighboring Elizabeth, and federal authorities conducted a raid there Monday at an apartment above a fried chicken restaurant operated by Rahami's father.
Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said a traffic stop conducted by FBI agents in New York City led to the search warrant for the apartment in Elizabeth. The search did not immediately reveal evidence that explosives had been assembled there, the federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, said investigators were searching for other possible locations the suspect may have used.
Officials were scouring Rahami’s communications to determine whether others may have assisted in the alleged planning, construction and the selection of targets.
Five people were questioned at length, but Sweeney said none had been charged.
The explosion in Chelsea rocked the neighborhood and blew windows out of buildings. Shortly thereafter, an unexploded pressure-cooker device was also found sitting on a sidewalk four blocks away and was being analyzed by the FBI. Police said video surveillance shows two men removing the pressure-cooker from a piece of luggage and walking off with the luggage but added that they doubt the men even knew it was a bomb.
Rahami was positively identified from a fingerprint allegedly left on the unexploded pressure-cooker, the federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY. The fingerprint, along with surveillance video featuring the suspect, made Rahami the focus of the investigation, the official said.
Hours before the Chelsea blast, a pipe bomb exploded in a Seaside Park, N.J., trash can before a 5K charity run that was to benefit Marines and sailors. No one was injured, but the race was canceled. New Jersey State Police posted a notice on Facebook saying Rahami was wanted for questioning in that blast.
On Monday, a device found in a backpack near the Elizabeth train station exploded while a bomb squad robot was trying to disarm it, authorities said.
Bollwage said the devices were found in a bag in a trash can by two men who reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of the package. There were no timers or cellphones found with the bombs, Bollwage said, prompting investigators to believe they had been discarded quickly.
“The speculation is that someone was disposing of evidence because law enforcement, we believe, was getting close,” he said.
Bollwage said investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses and parts of the bombs were sent to Quantico, Va., for analysis.
Officials in Elizabeth in the past have had problems with the chicken restaurant, Bollwage said. The complaints prompted the City Council several years ago to adopt an ordinance requiring the chicken restaurant to close at 10 p.m., Bollwage said.
"It was open all hours of the night,'' generating a multitude of noise complaints, he said. The ordinance applied specifically to that particular restaurant, not all eateries in the city, he said. The family later sued the city in 2011, saying they were targeted as Muslims, but the suit was terminated in 2012.
The bomb emergencies caused massive delays for NJ Transit services and Amtrak trains, affecting thousands of passengers. Amtrak schedules returned to normal Monday morning while some NJ Transit trains reported delays into the day due to the continued police activity in Elizabeth.
State, federal and New York City officials deployed a massive showing of security Monday as President Obama and the U.N. General Assembly converged on Manhattan for a summit on refugees. Mayor de Blasio said city residents will see "a very large NYPD presence this week."
Wyrich and Zehawi report for The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record; Bacon reports for USA TODAY. Contributing: Kevin Johnson, Charisse Jones, Steve Janoski and Mike Kelly.