IRVINGTON, NJ — The hunt for accused terrorist Ahmad Khan Rahami, the main suspect in the bomb attacks in Seaside Park on Saturday, Sept. 17, and the Chelsea section of New York City on Sunday, Sept. 18, that culminated in Elizabeth and Linden on Sunday, Sept. 18, and Monday, Sept. 19, with his eventual capture, also had ties to Irvington.
Assemblyman Jamel Holley, who represents Elizabeth, serves as Irvington’s director of public works.
“Elizabeth is part of my district,” said Holley on Tuesday, Sept. 20. “Linden is the next town over from Roselle, where I was the mayor. The entire law enforcement and first responder community in Union County over the last few days was the correct example set on how to respond to a terroristic threat. Their exemplary service makes me proud, and this is the way it’s supposed to be done.”
Holley said he was proud that Elizabeth and Union County law enforcement, emergency service providers and first responders proved they were up to the task of protecting the citizens they serve while the eyes of the world were on them. He added he’s equally proud of the private citizen and local business owner in Linden who identified Rahami and alerted police to his presence after he spotted him sleeping in the doorway of a local bar.
According to Union County authorities, a gunfight erupted between Rahami and Linden police when they tried to arrest him. Two officers, Angel Padilla and Peter Hammer, were wounded during the shootout that ended with Rahami being shot in the shoulder and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Padilla was reportedly saved by his bulletproof vest, police said. Hammer was grazed in the head by a bullet allegedly fired by Rahami and was taken to University Hospital in Newark for treatment.
According to law enforcement and published reports, Rahami is the prime suspect in an apparent bomb attack at a U.S. Marines charity fundraising walk in Seaside Park on Saturday, Sept. 17, and in a second bombing in Chelsea, N.Y., on Sunday, Sept. 18. Twenty-nine people were injured in the Chelsea bombing, none seriously, and there were no injuries as a result of the Seaside incident.
According to published reports, a second, undetonated bomb was found in the Chelsea neighborhood immediately after that incident. A backpack containing explosives was also found in the vicinity of the Elizabeth Train Station, close to where Rahami allegedly was living, on Sunday, Sept. 18, at about 8:30 p.m. One bomb in that backpack detonated as police attempted to disarm it.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office said Rahami was charged with five counts of attempted murder and was held on $5.2 million bail. He is also facing a weapons charge, according to the authorities, and his first court appearance on all the charges in tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 28.
“We showed the international world,” said Holley. “I pray for the law enforcement officers and victims who were injured in all the areas. And I commend them for swiftly coordinating their efforts with the F.B.I. and statewide law enforcement and the authorities. I’m proud to be from Union County.”
Holley said, however, as proud as he is to be from Union County, he’s also glad to be working in a town such as Irvington with Mayor Tony Vauss, who takes public safety very seriously.
“Mayor Vauss and Public Safety Director (Tracy) Bowers and the entire team and police department and fire department have done a tremendous job locally in cleaning up a lot of the crimes that have been a problem in Irvington in the past,” said Holley. “I am proud of them also. I am certain that, if a threat was to happen there, I am certain that they will be equipped and respond in the same way as well. I’m very proud of them.”
Bowers said he believes Irvington is ready in the unfortunate event of a terrorist attack or incident and that the police and fire divisions, as well as the Office of Emergency Management and the first responders and emergency service providers, would rise to the occasion, as their Union County counterparts in Elizabeth and Linden did, coordinating with federal authorities and law enforcement.
“This is another case where alert law enforcement officers used their training and experience to take into custody a dangerous individual who had no regard for human life,” said Bowers on Monday, Sept. 19. “I applaud the officers for their actions and keeping us safe. No community is exempt from danger. That is why it is important for law enforcement officers and citizens alike to remain alert. For example: Linden is only a few exits up the parkway from Irvington.”