Neighbors and friends of Ahmad Khan Rahami expressed shock and surprise that the 28-year-old Elizabeth, New Jersey, resident was arrested in connection with Saturday’s bombing in New York. Several Elizabeth, New Jersey, residents who were acquainted with Rahami, who worked in his family’s chicken restaurant in the city of about 124,000 people spoke on camera in a video posted by The Associated Press late on Monday afternoon.
“They never really seemed like, as bad people,” said one resident, Santiago Diaz, describing his feelings about the Rahami family. “They always seemed like nice people. I never really thought that this would ever happen because they never really seemed like that type of people.”
Watch the AP video interviews with neighbors of the suspected New York bomber, below.
Another news organization, Britain’s Daily Mail, also posted a video in which it spoke to people in Elizabeth who know Rahami. One patron of the First American Fried Chicken fast food restaurant operated by the bombing suspect said that Rahami appeared to be “a very friendly guy — that’s what’s so scary.”
View the Daily Mail video below.
— JaisaiViral (@jaisaiviral) September 19, 2016
Other patrons and friends said that Rahami would often give away free food if they didn’t have enough money to pay for the chicken, The Boston Globe reported.
“It was nothing but good vibes,” Flee Jones, a friend of Rahami since the two were kids, told the Globe. Jones, 27 and now an aspiring rapper, co-wrote a rap song titled “Chicken Joint” to help spread the word about the Rahami family restaurant.
In the following video, Jean Adam, Jr. who raps under the name “Orlando” with the Elizabeth-based group Party of 5ive — and who also co-wrote the unofficial First American Fried Chicken jingle — performs the song for an interviewer on Monday.
Jones said that he often played basketball with Rahami when the two were growing up together.
Rahami was born in Afghanistan at the tail end of the Soviet Union’s decade-long war in that country. But when he emigrated with his family to the United States remains unclear.
Though the Rahami family chicken joint was popular with the locals, it also had problems with “code enforcement,” Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage old Newsweek, adding that “noise complaints” against the establishment dated back to 2008.
Friends who spoke to The New York Times said that Rahami’s personality changed after a recent trip overseas. The friends believed that Rahami had traveled to his home country of Afghanistan, but in fact, federal officials told The Times, Rahami had traveled instead to Pakistan.
Rahami stayed for a year with family members in 2013 and 2014 in the Pakistani city of Quetta, which more recently has been the site of severe terrorist attacks, including a suicide bomb attack on a hospital there that killed 70 people in August.
The suspected New York bomber also traveled to Pakistan for a shorter period in 2011, the Times reported.
Rahami’s childhood friend Flee Jones told the Reuters news agency that after his former basketball partner returned from what Jones believed was Afghanistan, he grew a beard and began wearing religious attire.
Jones said that he had not seen Rahami for about two years, and learned about his overseas travels from one of Rahami’s brothers.
“He was way more religious,” Jones said, recalling Rahami’s return from abroad “I never knew him as the kind of person who would do anything like this.”