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Suspected Chelsea bomber recalled as ‘funny’ in high school

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, has been charged with

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, has been charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after an exchange of gunfire with police today, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Monday Sept. 20, 2016. Credit: Union County Prosecutor?s Office

This story was reported by Vincent Barone, Alison Fox, Alfonso A. Castillo and Robert E. Kessler. It was written by Castillo.

Suspected Chelsea bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen whose family operates a popular Elizabeth, New Jersey, fast-food eatery known to feed patrons who could not afford to pay, officials and witnesses said Monday.

Rahami, 28, was born in Afghanistan in 1988 and came to the United States in 2000, the FBI said. In an interview Monday night, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told CNN that investigators said Rahami has a wife in Pakistan.

U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-New Jersey) said Rahami emailed his office from Pakistan in 2014 seeking help because his pregnant wife had an expired Pakistani passport, the Associated Press reported.

Sires said his office wrote a letter to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan to check on the status of the case and that the woman eventually received a visa, according to AP. The congressman said he didn’t know if she ever came to the United States, and the FBI didn’t answer when asked Monday, AP said.

According to various news reports, Rahami in 2007 graduated from Edison High School in Edison, New Jersey. An Edison Township School District official declined to comment Monday when asked whether Rahami had graduated from the district.

Edison Class of 2007 graduate Chris Konya, a radio host inRochester, posted on Twitter what he said was Rahami’s high school yearbook photo showing a young man with curly hair and a thin mustache and goatee.

Speaking to a local ABC News affiliate, Konya remembered Rahami as “well-dressed,” “funny” and ‘‘not abrasive.’’ He recalled Rahami moving to Afghanistan after graduating. A family acquaintance also told Reuters that Rahami had traveled to Afghanistan in recent years.

“The timespan of going from blending in to being the most wanted man in America in less than 10 years — that’s the most shocking for me,” Konya said of his former classmate.

Rahami recently lived in Elizabeth and had worked in his father’s business, First American Fried Chicken, on Elmora Avenue, a few miles from Newark Liberty Airport, officials and customers said. FBI investigators early Monday swarmed an apartment kept by the Muslim family above the restaurant.

“He’s a very friendly guy, that’s what’s so scary,” said customer Ryan McCann of Elizabeth.

It was a popular neighborhood eatery, customers said. The restaurant was known to stay open until 2 a.m.

“There’s always elementary school, high school kids in there,” said Giovanni Morales, 21, a Union Community College student who lives near the restaurant.

Some neighbors had complained to Elizabeth officials that the restaurant was a late-night nuisance, residents said. When the city passed an ordinance requiring it to close early, Rahami’s father, Mohammad Rahami, and two brothers sued the city, Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said. The suit was terminated in 2012.

Marcella Perrotti, owner of the barbershop Short Cutz, which has been open up the block from the Khans’ restaurant for 16 years, called the family “standoffish.”

“All the shop owners would talk together, but we didn’t really know them,” Perrotti, 44, said. “I was shocked to hear that this was happening right under our noses.”

Jonathan Wagner, who grew up around the corner from the restaurant and said he went to college with one of Ahmad Khan Rahami’s brothers, called the Rahamis “generally nice people.”

“If I couldn’t pay for my food, his dad would say, ‘It’s OK’ and let me take it,” said Wagner, 26, a server at a Linden diner.


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