ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) – An Islamic terrorist already serving a life prison term for a bombing in New York City was convicted Tuesday of multiple counts of attempted murder and assault stemming from a shootout with police three years ago.
Ahmad Khan Rahimi , a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan but grew up in New Jersey, sat quietly during the reading of the verdicts Tuesday.
Among the spectators in the gallery was Angel Padilla, the Linden police officer who was the first to encounter Rahimi as he slept in a doorway in September 2016, two days after a bomb exploded in New York.
Padilla said he immediately recognized Rahimi from wanted pictures and was in the process of questioning him when Rahimi rose and shot him twice. Padilla’s bulletproof vest is credited with saving his life.
Padilla, one of three Linden officers involved in the shooting who have since retired, recalled the next chaotic minutes.
“It felt like it lasted forever,” he said. “But I would say it lasted no more than two or three minutes. Here I am, I’ve just been shot in the vest, I’m trying to see if I’m wounded and at the same time I’m trying to keep an eye on him so he doesn’t get away, and I’m trying to take cover.”
Other officers joined the chase, captured on surveillance camera footage that was shown to jurors during the trial. Rahimi was shot and wounded before he was apprehended.
The jury convicted Rahimi on Tuesday of all 30 counts: attempted murder and multiple aggravated assault counts involving five officers, plus several weapons charges. In doing so, jurors rejected an argument by Rahimi’s attorney that he acted in self-defense.
“Today’s verdict is a testament to the incredible bravery of the officers of the Linden police department,” Acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo said. “They went into the line of fire three years ago with their minds not on their personal safety, only on the safety of the public.”
Rahimi was previously convicted in a separate trial of planting two bombs in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, one of which detonated with enough force to hurl a 100-pound trash bin more than 120 feet, shatter windows and leave metal scraps strewn on the street.
No one was killed, but 30 people suffered injuries, including cuts caused by flying metal and glass. A second bomb planted on the street failed to explode.
The bombing came just hours after a small pipe bomb detonated harmlessly along the route of a Marine Corps charity road race in Seaside Park, New Jersey.
Investigators identified him as a suspect through a mobile phone attached to the Manhattan bomb that didn’t detonate.
As authorities hunted for him, they discovered a backpack containing additional explosives near a New Jersey transit station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Rahimi still faces a six-count federal criminal complaint in New Jersey charging him with detonating the bomb at the charity road race and with placing the bomb-filled backpack near the train station.
Rahimi graduated from high school in New Jersey in 2007 and later attended community college, where he majored in criminal justice but didn’t graduate. His family operated a chicken takeout restaurant in Elizabeth not far from the courthouse where he was tried.
After his arrest, acquaintances and customers described him as reserved but friendly, though one said Rahimi had returned from a trip to Afghanistan several years earlier “more religious” and dressing differently.
At Rahimi’s sentencing in New York last year, prosecutors criticized him for not showing remorse and for seeking to radicalize fellow prisoners at the federal jail in New York where he had been imprisoned since his arrest.
They maintained he gave inmates copies of terrorist propaganda and jihadist materials, including speeches and lectures by al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who inspired attacks on America and was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the number of officers Rahimi was accused of assaulting was five, not four.