Suspect's Motive Unclear In New York, New Jersey Bombings NPR has the latest on what we know about Ahmad Kahn Rahami, the suspect arrested in connection with the bombings over the weekend in New York and New Jersey.
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Suspect's Motive Unclear In New York, New Jersey Bombings

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Suspect's Motive Unclear In New York, New Jersey Bombings

Suspect's Motive Unclear In New York, New Jersey Bombings

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

NPR's Joseph Shapiro of our investigations team is with us now for more on the suspect who was arrested this morning, Ahmad Khan Rahami. And Joe, what have you been able to find out about his background?

JOSEPH SHAPIRO, BYLINE: So we know that he's 28 years old. He was born in Afghanistan. Now he's an American citizen. We found records that indicate that his father was in New Jersey as early as 1989 or 1990. That's when he got his Social Security card. Rahami graduated from Edison High School in Edison, N.J., in 2007.

In 2008 he was sued for child support by a New Jersey woman named Maria Menna (ph). And we know that he briefly attended Middlesex County College in Edison. And we spoke to a spokesman at that school. He tells us that he studied criminal justice, but he was at the school from just the fall of 2010 to the fall of 2012. He didn't graduate.

SIEGEL: You also found out that he had some financial problems.

SHAPIRO: Right.

SIEGEL: What do you know about that?

SHAPIRO: Right. We know that he's had some money problems. He was sued in small claims court in 2012. He got evicted from an apartment in 2013, and as recently as last year he was listed as living above the family's fried chicken restaurant on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, N.J.

We saw pictures today of police at that address and the storefront restaurant with the blue awning with the restaurant's name, First American Fried Chicken. And we know that his family says they were the target of anti-Muslim harassment.

SIEGEL: Talk about that. How do we know that?

SHAPIRO: Well, we know it because we found a lawsuit that the Rahami family filed in 2011. So it stems from a dispute with neighbors over the late-night hours and the crowds at the restaurant. And in the lawsuit, the family says they were repeatedly cited for staying open past 10:00 p.m. even though they were allowed to be open by law. They say they believe they were targeted because of their religion, so they sued the city of Elizabeth, N.J., the police department and the neighbor.

The mayor of Elizabeth, N.J., told NPR's Steve Inskeep today that the citations had nothing to do with the family's religion, that there were complaints about noise and about loitering. But the family's lawsuit says other restaurants nearby - there was a Dunkin Donuts, a White Castle, Carvel and more - that they're allowed to stay open late without getting any citations from the city.

SIEGEL: And this tension between the family and the city dragged on for a while.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, it did. The tension started with the first citation. That came on July 4, 2008, to the last one in 2010. At one point the owner's son, Mohammad K. Rahami Jr., was arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer. The family says there was one neighbor who was behind the complaints.

They blame a man named James Dean McDermott. And in the lawsuit it says he would come to the restaurant, and say things like, Muslims are trouble and, Muslims make too much trouble in this country. But in court, McDermott said that was wrong. He said he never said those things. And eventually those tensions with the city and the neighbors died down.

SIEGEL: But as we heard from Dina Temple-Raston when she was talking with Ari, the police don't seem to have any idea of why he would have done what he is suspected of doing.

SHAPIRO: We don't really know yet. There's - we didn't find any criminal history for him. The FBI had said that he was not on a U.S. terrorist watch list. He was not on the New York department list. Dina said, you know, that they are looking for motivations for terrorism. FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney who heads the FBI's New York office said in a press conference today that there's no indication yet of any motivation and they're - that they're looking for what he called the path to motivation.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Joe Shapiro. Joe, thank you.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

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