The Afghan-born American who is in custody after the weekend’s bombings in New York and New Jersey was employed at a fried chicken restaurant.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, worked with members of his family at First American Fried Chicken in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He lived with his family above the takeout spot, a few miles from Newark Liberty International Airport. “He’s a very friendly guy, that’s what’s so scary,” said one patron, Ryan McCann.
Mr McCann said: “I come in here about once every week or two, just to get something to eat. He’s always in there.” He added: “They never seemed out of the ordinary, they just Americanised. “You would’ve never knew anything. He’d always talk about his cars. “He loved Civics, he loved going fast, that’s what he did, he’d talk about his cars.” The family home is being searched by officers.
The takeaway spot was known to officials in the city of Elizabeth because of complaints about the late-night rowdy behaviour of patrons.
Neighbours had complained about the all-night establishment, leading city officials to pass an ordinance requiring the restaurant to shut at 10pm each night, according to city officials.
Mayor J Christian Bollwage said that in 2011 Mr Rahami’s father had sued the city over the ordinance, claiming he had been ethnically discriminated against. “It was neighbour complaints, it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion,” the mayor told the New York Times. “It had to do with noise and people congregating on the streets.”
The mayor said the city won the case in October 2012.
Another diner said one of Mr Rahami’s brothers once fought with an officer who had come to shut down the restaurant. The brother allegedly fled to his native Afghanistan before the case could be prosecuted, the diner added.
Patrons said Mr Rahami appeared to have been taking over restaurant operations from his father. He had attended Middlesex County College, where he majored in criminal justice, from 2010-12, but did not graduate according to school officials.
Flee Jones, 27, told the New York Times Mr Rahami’s appearance and behaviour began to change after he visited his native Afghanistan about four years ago. After returning from his trip, he grew a beard, began wearing traditional Muslim robes and prayed in the back of the store. He was not listed on counter-terrorism databases, US officials said. But Monday’s shootout was not his first encounter with law enforcement.
In 2014, he was arrested on weapons and aggravated assault charges after he allegedly stabbed someone in the leg in a domestic incident, court documents showed. A grand jury ultimately declined to indict him on the charges.
The FBI said Mr Rahami, a US citizen, was about 5ft 6in and weighing 200lb (90kg), with brown hair, brown eyes, and brown facial hair. He was reportedly identified with the help of a mobile phone left on one of the devices.
The bearded suspect was pictured being loaded on a gurney into an ambulance following a shootout with police in New Jersey.