U.S. officials issued an unusual emergency alert Monday morning to New York City residents via their mobile devices, warning them to be on the look out for a man wanted for questioning in connection with multiple incidents — including two explosions — across New York and New Jersey over the weekend. The alert result in authorities apprehending the suspect a few hours later. Monday morning’s notification was first time the alert system has been used to notify people of an active manhunt.
The emergency notification was sent after a series of explosions in New York and New Jersey put the area on high alert over the weekend. There was an explosion near a charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey, on Saturday morning. Later that night another bomb went off in the New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29 people —all whom have now been released from hospitals. Five additional pipe bombs were discovered Sunday night in backpack just blocks away in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of the bombs exploded as authorities tried to defuse the device with a robot.
The early morning alert jolted millions of New Yorkers’ smartphones around 8 a.m. ET on Monday, setting off a frenzy of vibrating phones and the loud screeching sound familiar to anyone who has previously encountered a TV or radio emergency notifications.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) were first activated 2012 as a way for various government agencies to notify people in a specific geographic area of an emergency via their mobile phones. Since then, the system has been used to send more than 21,000 alerts. And while people have grown accustomed to receiving alerts for critical weather and missing children, the alerts are still not common occurrences and many New Yorkers expressed their shock at receiving them along with every other passenger on their Monday morning commute. Even more unusual with Monday’s alert is that it is the first time the WEA system has been used for a terror investigation, according to Tony Aiello from CBS News.
Monday’s message alert successfully resulted in authorities apprehending Rahami in Linden, New Jersey, later Monday morning after a shootout with police. According to CNN, Rahami was shot and was taken to an ambulance in a stretcher with his right shoulder bloodied and bandaged. Two officers were also hit in the shootout, although neither sustained life-threatening injuries.
Rahami was captured after the owner of a bar in Linden, N.J., found him sleeping in the doorway of his bar Monday morning and called police.
The FBI described Rahami as a naturalized U.S. citizen of Afghan descent with a last known address in Elizabeth, New Jersey — the same city where an explosives-laden backback was found Sunday night.
Although officials have said that Rahami is not on any U.S. terror watchlists, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday “we have every reason to believe this was an act of terror.”
The series of attacks come as New York hosts world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly this week.