The Slatest

Chelsea Bombing Suspect’s Family Alleged Discrimination by Jersey Town

Members of the FBI on Monday enter a fried chicken store that is underneath the residence being investigated in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in connection with a bombing in Manhattan.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in this weekend’s New York and New Jersey bombings who was reportedly taken into custody on Monday, saw his family come into conflict with the law over the restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he reportedly worked.

Rahami’s father, Mohammad R. Rahami, sued the city, the local police, and a neighbor in 2011 for alleged harassment related to a conflict over the hours of the family’s restaurant, First American Fried Chicken. Police searched the apartment above that restaurant, which is where Rahami reportedly lived, on Monday morning. As of 2015, the case was stayed.


The mayor of Elizabeth told the New York Times that the restaurant was a neighborhood problem:

The restaurant, which has employed Ahmad and some of his brothers, was such a persistent neighborhood nuisance that the city forced it to close early, said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth.


When it was opened several years ago, it stayed open all night, Mr. Bollwage said.

The restaurant was alleged to be in violation of a local ordinance barring restaurants from staying open past 10 p.m., but it had been cleared of those violations in court based on an exemption. In their lawsuit against the city, the family said that Rahami “managed and operated First American Fried Chicken Restaurant from 2002 to 2008 without incident.”


Officials continued to try to close the restaurant down in 2008 and 2009, allegedly beginning with a summons on July 4, 2008, and again prosecutors dropped the charges. According to the Daily Telegraph, though, one case stuck, and in 2011 the father pleaded guilty to operating outside of licensed hours, and was fined $200 plus $33 in court costs.

In their lawsuit against the city, the Rahamis claimed they were being discriminated against on “the basis of race, religion and national origin.”

They claimed that one neighbor particularly, James Dean McDermott, had been calling the police and alleged that he had said to them, “You are Muslims,” “Muslims make too much trouble in this country,” “Muslims should not have businesses here,” and “Muslims don’t belong here.” Along with city and police officials, McDermott was one of the subjects of their lawsuit.


McDermott told the Times that he was not alone in filing these complaints and that they were based on the behavior of the restaurant’s patrons:

Neighbors, including Dean McDermott, who lives on the corner of Linden and Elmora Avenues and works as a news videographer, said the restaurant drew rowdy crowds past midnight.

Often Mr. McDermott found patrons loitering in his yard and urinating in his driveway, and he called the police. Others did, too.

“It was neighbor complaints, it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion,” Bollwage told the Times. “It had to do with noise and people congregating on the streets.”


Rahami’s brothers Mohammad K. Rahami Jr. and Mohammad Q. Rahami were both arrested during one of these police confrontations. Mohammad Q. Rahami was not charged with a crime, but his brother was charged with disorderly conduct and preventing the police from lawfully performing an official function and pleaded guilty to obstruction according to the family’s lawsuit.


McDermott told the Times that he believed one of Rahami’s brothers fled to his home country, Afghanistan, after a conflict with police, though the paper didn’t specify which one or what the conflict was.


More details, meanwhile, have begun to emerge about the suspect himself. The Times reported that a neighbor and patron of the restaurant, Ryan McCann, “said that Mr. Rahami had a passion for Honda Civics custom-built to race.”

More from the Times:

“He always talked about fast Honda civics, about how he loved them,” Mr. McCann said.

On Monday morning, the authorities hauled away a white Infiniti five-seater and were inspecting a blue BMW sedan and a black Toyota Camry near the Rahami home.

Mr. McCann said he last ate at the restaurant two weeks ago. Ahmad served him, and was in usual form.

“He was having a conversation about his cars,” Mr. McCann said. “How he likes to soup ’em up and race ’em.”

McCann told the paper that Rahami was in the process of taking over the family business.

Read more from Slate on the bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey.