NEW YORK -- New York City’s new police chief was being sworn in Monday as a suspect was arrested following a massive manhunt in connection with an explosion that rocked Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood Saturday night, injuring 29.
Incoming NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, the NYPD’s former chief of department, took the lead of the department following. The blast came on his first day as city police commissioner. He was sworn in by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio around 11 a.m. Monday, just before police announced the arrest of 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami in Linden, N.J.
Officials in New York, New Jersey, and with the FBI said early Monday Rahami was being sought in connection with the Chelsea blast. Sources tell CBS News that Rahami was also sought in connection with a bombing in Seaside Park, New Jersey, as well as the five explosive devices found in a backpack near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the suspect’s hometown. CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reports that investigators are looking into whether Rahami was part of a terror cell.
Officials say surveillance video places Rahami at the scene of both the bomb that exploded in Chelsea, as well a a second, similar device that failed to explode and was taken away by police.
Officials had been seeking a connection between the string of attacks that started Saturday and unfolded in a short time span.
O’Neill spoke late Saturday night at a press conference, still unknown to many in the city, calling the probe a “complex investigation” and said he was confident the suspect would be brought to justice.
Taking to his Twitter account, he wrote, “We will get to the bottom of this, through meticulous investigation and collaboration with our partners in law enforcement.”
O’Neill started his career in the NYPD in the 1980s as a transit patrolman and has risen through the ranks at the department, “serving in nearly every unformed position in the force,” later running precincts, narcotics and fugitive apprehension before his 2014 appointment to Chief of Department, according to the mayor’s office.
The Brooklyn native and father of two has been described as the “architect” of the city’s community policing practice, an effort to strengthen relationships between law enforcement ant the community. Under Bratton, the city already has made plans to shift toward the neighborhood policing strategy. O’Neill has been heavily involved in those efforts, and de Blasio has said neighborhood policing would be in place in 51 precincts as of this fall.
Monday morning, officials released Rahami’s picture and urged anyone with information to come forward as millions of New York City-area residents were alerted via cellphone to the suspect’s name and description around 8 a.m. with a system normally reserved for flash flood warnings and Amber alerts.
It was apparently a tip from the public that led to the suspect’s arrest about three hours later. CBS New York reports Linden police got a call about a man sleeping in a doorway at a business on Monday morning. Police say a responding officer recognized him as Rahami, Linden Police Capt. James Sarnicki told CBS New York. Rahami allegedly opened fire, striking an officer in his bullet proof vest and injuring two other officers. The man, believed to be Rahami, was also shot multiple times by officers and was taken to a hospital.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, O’Neill credited cooperation of law enforcement and the work of the Linden police officers who “captured this dangerous individual.”
He also hailed the use of the alert system through the city’s Office of Emergency Management, allowing officials to quickly share information with the public and make an arrest quickly.
“It gets everybody involved – it’s that sense of shared responsibility,” O’Neill said. “This is the way to go – this is the future.”
He credited the arrest to a confluence of technology and “good old fashioned police work.”
“It’s a pretty tough way to start my new position as police commissioner, but again, I’ve always been so proud to be a part of this agency, the New York City Police Department,” he said.