The suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing passed a criminal-background check and bought a gun from a local dealer, Connecticut law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Shelton Police Chief Joel W. Hurliman said Faisal Shahzad went to Bali Firearms in mid-March and selected a rifle that he later obtained.

Authorities ran a check that showed him to be mentally fit and without a criminal record, Hurliman said.

"The background check is pretty intense," Hurliman said. "It's interstate. It's FBI."

Shahzad picked up the gun about a month ago, after a 14-day waiting period, Hurliman said.

It was around this time Shahzad put his attack plan in motion, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

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Kelly told a Senate hearing that Shahzad drove to Kennedy Airport with the gun, which was discovered in his vehicle.

"It appears from some of his other activities that March is when he decided to put this plan in motion," Kelly said. "He came back from Pakistan Feb. 3, 2010. It may well have been an indicator of putting something catastrophic in motion."

Late Tuesday, federal agents were back in Shelton, Conn., where Shahzad's former neighbors said they were grilled about the suspected car bomber's opinions about America.

"Did he ever mention anything about not being happy in the country?" neighbor Brenda Thurman said she was asked by homeland security agents during a half-hour meeting at a local Dunkin' Donuts. And, Thurman said, agents asked if Shahzad or his wife, identified as Huma Mian, ever mentioned "anything political."

Shahzad, 30, lived near Thurman on Long Hill Avenue before he was arrested late Monday and charged with terrorism and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction after he was accused of parking a bomb-laden Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square on Saturday.

Neighbors said agents returned to the Shelton home Tuesday to search it again.

Trash crawling with maggots and ants that had yielded clues to Shahzad's life, including a college transcript, was gone from where a reporter had found it Tuesday.

Authorities had been staking out the neighborhood before Shahzad was arrested, neighbors said Wednesday. Thurman said a half-dozen agents were parked in the area and said at one point, she got so nervous she called police to report the suspicious vehicles.

Agents seized a computer Shahzad and his wife gave the a neighbor's daughter, now 10, a former playmate of Shahzad's daughter. The girl and Shahzad's daughter often jumped rope, the mother told Newsday, adding her daughter misses her playmate.

"They liked to play with the bubbles," the woman said. "Every afternoon, she would wait for my daughter to come home to play."

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Public records indicate Shahzad previously lived in an apartment on Ferris Avenue in Norwalk, Conn., from October 2002 until April 2004.

Patricia Payne, 55, president of the apartment complex, said Wednesday Shahzad was extremely private and kept to himself.

"When people come in and they are not outgoing and they don't involve themselves and don't have any friends, it makes you wonder," Payne said.

With Will Van Sant

John Valenti, and AP