The Tech that Captured a Pressure Cooker Bomber

Surveillance cameras, a bomb robot and text-based emergency alerts led to the arrest of New York City pressure cooker bomber suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami.


NEW YORK CITY -- An explosion in Chelsea, a Manhattan neighborhood, wounded 29 people before police discovered a second device--a pressure cooker bomb--found nearby on Saturday, September 17th.

According to CBS News, officials have enough evidence to tie the suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, arrested last Monday in Linden, N.J., to four separate bomb scenes from last weekend.

Civic tech in the hands of public safety officials played a crucial role in not only identifying the suspect, but also in finding him.

Surveillance cameras caught images of Rahami at both scenes in Chelsea, reportedly placing bombs and walking away. They matched his face to photos in the U.S. Immigration database. Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen. They may have also used facial recognition technology, according to the report.

Next up, the New York Police Department (NYPD) deployed a bomb robot to pick up the unexploded pressure cooker and gingerly place it in a container. They brought it to a facility where they and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators could disarm it and dig into it to look for clues. They traced the purchase of the trigger--a cellular telephone--and also found fingerprints. The FBI sent the bomb to their forensics lab in Quantico, Va., for further evaluation.

Finally, what may have clinched the active manhunt to find New York’s pressure cooker bomber was a mass jingle. Millions of New Yorkers received a morning text alert with a picture that Rahimi was wanted, and to call 9-1-1 if seen. Police in Linden got a call within hours about a man sleeping in a doorway of a business. Rahimi open-fired into the abdomen, shielded with a bulletproof vest, of an officer.

The text-based emergency alert system is credited by civic officials for upping the focus on the pressure cooker bomber and leading to the suspect’s capture.

I think it is another example of the innovation going on with NYPD and OEM [Office of Emergency Management] that there was a way to reach people different from the past — no more wanted posters on a precinct house wall. This is a modern approach that really engages the community,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the press conference following Rahimi’s arrest.

Read the original story on the CBS News website.

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.