An explosion near a dumpster on West 23rd Street in Chelsea injured 31 people and caused extensive property damage on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Following the 8:30 p.m. explosion, an NYPD Counterterrorism Unit and Bomb Squad were dispatched in order to investigate the scene for explosive devices. Investigators found a homemade pressure cooker bomb to be responsible for the explosion, which was eventually traced back to the alleged perpetrator Ahmad Khan Rahami.
A secondary device, a pressure cooker affixed with wires, duct tape and a cell phone, was found on West 27th Street and removed by the Bomb Squad without any issues.
According to police, the explosion occurred between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue at 135 W. 23rd St., outside of Associated Blind Housing. The facility contains 200 public housing units for the visually impaired.
A majority of the injuries were non-life threatening, although one victim was reported to be in serious condition. Of the 31 civilians injured, 24 were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Witnesses describe hearing a loud noise, feeling a powerful blast and seeing white smoke near the site of the explosion. Some reported feeling the shock wave three blocks from the blast.
Surrounding buildings were evacuated following the explosion, while people inside the facility were told to stay inside for the duration of the investigation. The FDNY examined surrounding buildings for any potential structural damage.
Police quickly ruled out an accidental explosion and reviewed surveillance footage of the area, identifying Rahami as a suspect. Following the incident, vehicle traffic was halted between Fifth Avenue and Eighth Avenue and from 14th Street to 32nd Street while investigators searched the area for clues.
Although Mayor Bill de Blasio initially stated at a press conference following the incident that the explosion was not an act of terrorism, although he later recanted, saying, “the initial indication is that this was an intentional act.”
Investigators quickly linked the Chelsea bombing to a similar bombing on that day which occurred in Seaside Park, a small borough situated on the eastern shore of New Jersey.
In that case, a pipe bomb was placed in a garbage can alongside the route of the third-annual Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5k run, which exploded at around 9:30 a.m.
Due to an unrelated delay in the start time of the race, no spectators were within the radius of the explosion and thus no injuries were reported.
The following day, investigators discovered multiple bombs hidden inside a package at a New Jersey Transit train station in Elizabeth. Authorities also searched Rahami’s home the same day, leading them to ask for the public’s help in capturing him.
On the morning of Monday, Sept. 19, the FBI tweeted a poster of Rahami and sent out an alert message to millions of mobile phones in New York City. The alert, which stated, “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen,” was the first time in New York City history that an emergency alert was used to search for a named suspect.
At around 10:30 a.m., a bar owner in Linden, New Jersey recognized a man resembling Rahami sleeping in the doorway of his bar. When New Jersey police arrived 15 minutes later, they identified the man as Rahami.
When Officer Angel Padilla ordered Rahami to show his hands, Rahami took out a Glock 9mm handgun, which he had legally purchased in July 2016. Rahami proceeded to shoot Padilla in the abdomen and then flee, leading police on a chase in which he shot another police officer and injured a third. Rahami himself was shot multiple times before being taken into custody.
For his alleged role in the bombings and the attacks on police officers, Rahami was charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, one count of second degree unlawful possession of a weapon and a multitude of other federal crimes.
Rahami is currently being held on $5.2 million bail.