People looking for free stuff found the second Chelsea bomb—and may have unwittingly disarmed it

FBI officials inspect the scene of the Chelsea bombing.
FBI officials inspect the scene of the Chelsea bombing.
Image: Reuters/Rashid Umar
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Often, help comes from where you least expect it.

According to a report in DNAinfo, two people who spotted an unattended bag and decided to take it may have ended up assisting an anti-terror investigation in New York this weekend—just days before two others did the same thing in New Jersey. In both cases, the items they attempted to take were in fact homemade explosives.

Suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old from Elizabeth, New Jersey, is believed to have planted two pressure cooker bombs in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 17. The first one, placed in a dumpster on West 23rd Street and 6th Avenue, went off that evening at approximately 8:30pm local time, injuring 29. The second one was placed four blocks north, on West 27th Street, but did not detonate—because two men unwittingly disabled it, DNAinfo reported.

The pair reportedly removed the bomb from inside, placed it into a garbage bag, and then walked away with the suitcase in tow. Law enforcement sources told DNAinfo that they believe this may have inadvertently disabled the bomb. That matches reports that surveillance video of the second bomb site showed two men removing the pressure cooker from its original white bag and placing it back on the sidewalk.

Because it did not detonate, investigators were able to recover a cell phone from the bomb, which they quickly linked to Rahami. Today, Rahami was arrested in Linden, New Jersey, following a shootout with police.

No deaths have been reported.
No deaths have been reported.

Late last night, law enforcement discovered five unexploded pipe bombs near the Elizabeth, New Jersey train station after two men, who had taken a package containing the bombs out of the garbage, alerted the police.

“They took the package out of the wastebasket, because they thought it was of some value to them,” Elizabeth mayor J. Christian Bollwage said during a press conference. The two then noticed “wires and a pipe” inside the bag, dropped the package, and informed local police.

Investigators suspect that the pipe bombs found in Elizabeth, the pressure cooker bombs in New York City, and the pipe bomb that exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, on Saturday morning are all connected to Rahami.

It’s unclear when, or if, the bombs in Elizabeth would have been discovered if the two men had not removed the package from the garbage. We also don’t know for sure if the second bomb in Manhattan would have exploded if the two other foragers had not unwittingly fiddled with it prior to it being discovered by police.

What we do know, though, is that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and, in this case, that adage may have saved lives.