Childhood friend of alleged bomber: He’d let us chill, have rap battles
ELIZABETH — As the suspect in this weekend's multiple bombings recovered from gunshot wounds received during his arrest, one childhood friend said he is shocked at the allegations.
Flee Jones, 27, of Elizabeth, told New Jersey 101.5 that as a child, he and Ahmad Kham Rahami played sports at a local park together, and his friends would visit the First American Fried Chicken location Rahami's family owned for food and drinks.
"It's shocking to me, definitely shocking to me," Jones said. "He used to let us chill inside the chicken shack and have rap battles, and he always gave us free food with no problem."
Jones said Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen, took a trip to his native Afghanistan in recent years. When he got back, "he was a little different," Jones said.
"He was more quiet and more mature," Jones said Rahami had become "more religious" — but he doesn't want to suggest that's a bad thing.
Two officers who found Rahami sleeping in the hallway of a business were shot by the 28-year-old, authorities have said. According to the Union County Prosecutor's Office, one was hit in the abdomen, but his bulletproof vest protected him. Another was hurt by shards of glass, the prosecutor's office said.
Rahami was the subject of a manhunt after Saturday's explosion of a pipe bomb in Seaside Park before the start of 5K race to benefit a military charity. A second explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan on Saturday night injured 29 people.
Authorities now say Rahami is believed to be connected to both. Hours before his arrest, two men found a backpack in a garbage can near an NJ Transit station in Elizabeth, containing five more explosive devices. One was detonated as authorities tried to disarm it.
Not all in Rahami's neighborhood remembered him as fondly as friend Jones.
Marcella Perrotti, owner of a Short Cutz Barber shop, a block from the chicken shop told New Jersey 101.5 "everybody on this block and all the business owners are all like family, and we all know each other — except that place."
"It's a little scary, but maybe not that surprising," Perrotti said. "You live on a block for 16 years. You think you'd know your neighbors, right?"
Joshua Sanchez and Jessica Casanova of Elizabeth were frequent visitors of First American Fried Chicken.
"It was always this chicken shack that looked — I'm not going to say they were trashy — there was always something off about them," Sanchez said.
"It was almost like they were too serious all the time." Casanova said.
With reporting by Dino Flammia contributed to this report.