NYC bombing trial features dramatic new video of people fleeing Chelsea attack

NEW YORK -- Dramatic new video released by federal prosecutors shows panic in the wake of a September 2016 bomb attack in New York City.

The video surfaced as Ahmad Khan Rahimi stands trial on charges he injured 30 people in a daylong bombing spree in New York and New Jersey. Videos of people fleeing the scene in Manhattan as debris and smoke filled the air after the explosion were shown to jurors Monday following opening statements by a prosecutor and a defense lawyer.

One of the bombs exploded in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, casting a 100-pound trash bin into the air, shattering windows as bits of metal flew through the air and injuring 30 people. Another bomb left several blocks away did not explode.

As the trial continued Wednesday, victims took the stand, describing fear and shock in the explosion's aftermath.           


Screengrab of surveillance video showing people fleeing a 2016 bomb attack in New York City

U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

A man in a wheelchair says he thought the explosion was "doomsday." A blind woman says she felt "absolute terror."

Rahimi was bent on carrying out a murderous plot with maximum carnage, federal prosecutors said Monday at the start of his trial. Rahimi researched online, bought ingredients and assembled bombs after watching how-to videos, they said.

"He designed it. He built it," Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley said. "He filled it with explosives and deadly shrapnel and he planted it on the street."

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, 28, is seen in a Union County, New Jersey, prosecutor’s office photo released on Sept. 19, 2016.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi is seen in a Union County, New Jersey, prosecutor's office photo released on Sept. 19, 2016.

Courtesy Union County Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters

Rahimi also is accused of detonating a pipe bomb along a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, that exploded but didn't injure anyone. Photographs of what was left of the pipe bomb were shown to jurors Tuesday.

The 29-year-old, who lived with his family in Elizabeth, New Jersey, has not been charged with terrorism, but has been charged with crimes including bombing a public place, using a weapon of mass destruction and interstate transportation of explosives.

Prosecutors say his interest in jihad, terrorist attacks and terrorist organizations vastly influenced his plans. They said he was arrested carrying a notebook with writings with such passages as "the sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets."

Crowley called him a "soldier in a holy war against Americans, and New York and New Jersey were his battle grounds."

Rahimi was captured two days after the Manhattan bombing following a shootout with police in New Jersey, where he faces other charges. He has pleaded not guilty in Manhattan.

Defense attorney Meghan Gilligan has asked jurors to keep their minds open.

On Tuesday, jurors watched video footage of a man with a backpack dragging two small suitcases down a street before the bomb went off.

Security cameras in Penn Station and on the street outside trailed Rahimi as he walked downtown toward the Manhattan location where the bomb exploded. They are among thousands of surveillance cameras that routinely capture the city's streets.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley had promised jurors that they would see video of Rahimi transporting his explosive packages to their destinations early on the evening of Sept. 17, 2016.

Helena Ayeh told jurors Monday that the blast knocked her off her feet and she couldn't see or hear. She was bleeding heavily, and her knees were bruised. She opened her eyes and an emergency worker told her to shut them immediately. She asked if her eye was still even there.

"And she hesitated, and she said yes," Ayeh recounted Monday on the witness stand. She said she asked the woman why she hesitated.

Ayeh recalled: "And she said, 'Do you believe in God?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Pray.'"

Ayeh said she'd suffered a deep cut in her right eye, and the metal barely missed slicing her eye in half. She said she eventually recovered her vision.

Photographer Jane Schreibman told jurors about calling in the second unexploded pressure cooker. She said she noticed the pot with wires sticking out on the street and a white trash bag near her home. She initially thought it was just a child's science experiment, she testified. But it nagged at her.

"It was lingering," she said, so she called 911. The bomb squad showed up and removed the device.                  

Rahimi also has been charged with attempted murder in New Jersey because authorities say he shot at police officers during his arrest. Rahimi suffered gunshot wounds during the shootout. Details of the shootout won't be included in the federal trial.

Rahimi was briefly removed from the courtroom just as the trial opened Monday.

He interrupted proceedings to speak with U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman and was escorted out. He returned after the prosecution's opening statement and apologized for the outburst, telling the judge he hadn't been able to see his wife since his detention.

"It was not my intention to make a scene," he told Berman. He said he's barely seen his three children and hasn't seen his wife once, because she is not approved to go to the detention facility where he's held.

"Why are they preventing me from seeing my wife?" he asked the judge. Berman scolded Rahimi for making a scene and for raising the issue "one minute before we were scheduled to start this trial," but he promised he'd look into the visitation issue.

Rahimi sat down and had no other outbursts as the case progressed.