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Court Documents Detail Rahami Family's Dispute With Elizabeth, N.J.


Police in and around New York City are searching this morning for a man named Ahmad Khan Rahami. He is wanted in connection with explosive devices found in two locations in New Jersey and also in Manhattan, where one detonated Saturday, injuring 29 people. This morning, police in Elizabeth, N.J., have been searching an apartment above a restaurant called First American Fried Chicken.

Now, our colleague, investigative correspondent Joseph Shapiro, has found court documents that could tell us a lot about Rahami's family. And Joe's in the studio with me.

And, Joe, what have you learned?

JOSEPH SHAPIRO, BYLINE: David, we found that in 2011, the family filed a lawsuit against the city of Elizabeth and a neighbor, saying that they were the subject of anti-Muslim harassment.

The lawsuit was over a series of tickets. The tickets from the city complained that they kept their restaurant open too late, past 10:00 p.m. And that the lawsuit says that the family learned that the complaints were spurred by a neighbor who had come into their restaurant before and had said Muslims are trouble, Muslims don't belong here.

GREENE: OK. And one thing we know about Ahmad Rahami is he is a U.S. citizen, Afghan background. And his family, it sounds like in these court documents, was complaining about being harassed.

Joe, I want you to listen to something with me if you can. My colleague Steve Inskeep brought up your reporting this morning when he spoke a short while ago to the mayor of Elizabeth, N.J., Chris Bollwage.



One of our reporting colleagues here has seen some court documents and says that the family alleged that they were being discriminated against as Muslims. Is that how you understand their claims?

CHRIS BOLLWAGE: That was part of their claim. Strictly, this came from neighborhood meetings. And the neighborhood meetings plus police patrols clearly highlighted the code enforcement violations and the noise over a 24-hour period. So it had absolutely nothing to do with anyone's faith or beliefs.

GREENE: Joe, does that make sense to you?

SHAPIRO: Well, the family's lawsuit says it doesn't make sense to them because they say that other restaurants nearby, including a Dunkin' Donuts, a White Castle, a Carvel were allowed to stay open past 10:00 p.m., and they did not get complaints. They weren't told to close down.

And, by the way - so the family kept getting these complaints. And eventually there was a confrontation between the father, Mohammad Rahami, and his son. And the son was later charged with disorderly conduct as a result of that confrontation.

GREENE: And we believe this was the son? This is the son, Ahmad, who the police are hunting for, or could be a different son in this family?

SHAPIRO: We know that Ahmad Rahami, who's the...

GREENE: The guy the police are searching for, right?

SHAPIRO: Right, the one that the police are searching for, is the son of Mohammad R. Rahami. And in this lawsuit - it's filed by the - Mohammad Rahami, the owner and his son. The son is named in the court document as Mohammad K. Rahami.

GREENE: OK. NPR's investigative correspondent Joseph Shapiro, we'll be hearing much more of your reporting throughout the day. Joe, thanks.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

GREENE: And just to review where we are this morning, the series of explosive devices found in New York City and around New York City, two locations in New Jersey - Seaside Park, N.J., on Saturday, and then these two devices in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. One of those devices detonated, injuring 29 people. And then early this morning, police detonated a device that was found in Elizabeth, N.J.

The mayor of Elizabeth, though, told us this morning that he does not think the devices in Elizabeth were actually set to go off. He has a theory that perhaps someone dumped those devices in a garbage dump when investigators had begun doing their search and putting pressure on them.

We'll be following this story throughout the day on NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.