The lawyer for the Elizabeth man accused of attempting to kill five Linden cops during a shootout as he was arrested on charges he placed bombs in Seaside Park and New York tried to convince jurors that Ahmed Khan Rahimi opened fire in self-defense and in fear of his life.
Jurors are set to begin deliberations Thursday on the fate of Rahimi, 31, of Elizabeth, on the state charges of attempted murder. Rahimi was already convicted in federal court of planting the bombs in Manhattan and received two life sentences. He still faces separate federal charges for allegedly placing explosives along a military charity 5K race in Seaside Park.
Nicholas Kormann, Rahimi’s public defender, said in closing arguments Thursday in Superior Court that Rahimi was acting in self-defense.
“When the police use substantially more force than necessary to take someone into custody ,the law forgives someone that uses forces back to protect their own life or to protect themselves from serious injury,” Kormann said in the Elizabeth courtroom.
“They’re brave men and maybe they did good work,” Kormann later added of the Linden police. “But they’re not victims of attempted murder in any way, shape or form.”
Linden officers caught Rahimi after he planted bombs in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Sept. 17, 2016. A shootout ensued with the officers after he was found sleeping in a vestibule of a Linden bar.
Similar pipe bombs were found in a backpack near the Broad Street train station in Elizabeth, not far from Rahimi’s home. A massive manhunt ensued in the days after the explosives were found, and authorities identified Rahimi, an Afghanistan-born citizen who became a naturalized American resident, s armed and dangerous.
Prosecutors argued that Rahimi’s mindset was clearly evident. When he was arrested, a Glock handgun, three magazines and dozens of bullets were found in a bag that Rahimi was carrying.
“He was ready to go to war,” said Union County Assistant Prosecutor Albert Cernadas, Jr.
Authorities also recovered a journal that read “Gunshots to your police. Death to your oppression” and made references to al-Qaeda and ISIS leaders. Rahimi’s attorney, however, argued that there was no definitive way to tell if those words were written by him.
“What did the defendant believe? Well, luckily we have in his pocket what he believed. ‘Gunshots to your police. Death to your oppression,’” said Cernandas, referring to the words in the journal. “Not only did he believe it, he acted on it.”
Three of the five Linden officers — Angel Padilla, Daniel Diaz and Pete Hammer — involved in Rahimi’s apprehension sat in court Thursday to listen to the closing remarks. They watched intently as the prosecutor showed the jury police body camera and dashcam footage of Rahimi’s arrest.
Dressed in a gray suit, Rahimi made no reaction to the statements made in court. He leaned over to whisper to his public defender as the prosecutor played footage of the arrest.
Rahimi fired multiple times, shooting Padilla in the stomach and firing at a moving police vehicle, Cernandas said in court Thursday. Padilla, who found Rahimi sleeping in the vestibule, repeatedly told Rahimi to remove his hand from his hoodie.
It was not clear who shot first in the moments after Rahimi pulled a gun on Padilla. Cernadas said the shots happened “almost simultaneously.” Rahimi was also shot multiple times, but survived.
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